Pilots are going through a rough time due to the corona crisis. Aircraft are mainly aground and many airlines are fired. It was once a dream profession, but now they have uncertain times. NU.nl talks to four pilots about what they have experienced in the past period.
Air traffic is slowly starting up again, but many pilots are still unemployed. And if they do work, it is not full time and they are paid less.
“I am self-employed and get paid by plane. Since the beginning of March I have been at home without any income”, says Bart, pilot at Ryanair.
“You do not know in advance how long you will not be able to fly. This makes everything uncertain. We have calculated how long we could pay our fixed costs from the savings account. We do not go on outings or holidays and think three times about an ice cream. money is no longer there. ”
Maurice is a pilot at a Chinese airline. He too is currently out of work, but was able to earn more in China before the crisis and invested in real estate. “I’m in a fortunate situation. But I had to make sacrifices for that.”
“In China you have to deal with a tough work environment, where as a European you have to deal with a lot of discrimination. In addition, there are many extra studies and my family lives in the Netherlands.”
‘You can’t help it’
Although Ryanair is often under the magnifying glass, Bart is not negative about his employer. “You know what you sign with your contract. The working conditions are sometimes not good and contracts are rattling on all sides. It worked for me until a virus broke out.”
Where colleagues lost their jobs, Bart was able to return to work last week. “Admittedly in an adjusted roster with a new contract, for which I had to surrender 40 percent of my rate.”
“I find that discount irresponsible”, Maurice says for Bart. “It is annoying for him and he cannot do anything about it. At some airlines, such as KLM, the government is helping. That is unfair.”
Aviation no longer sexy
The sector has been hit hard, Maurice acknowledges that this has seriously damaged its image. “The golden edge is off. My daughter (13) recently asked me: is being a pilot fun? I advised her to choose a different profession.”
“My heart still beats faster when I hear a plane crash, but because of the work pressure and financial consequences I understand that young people now choose something different. In the past, you could pay for the training, often more expensive than 100,000 euros, within a few years. That is no longer possible. ”
Yet not every pilot has been hit hard by the corona crisis. Richard flies a private jet and is a freelance instructor. He was lucky, he continued to be paid and is now fully working. “We have never been as busy as now. We have to sell no to a considerable number of requests.”
“I have been saying that I want to fly since I was four years old. But for many people it is no longer a dream job. Before the crisis, the focus was still on training new people. The crisis brought this to a complete standstill.”
Corona crisis as a rescue
The cargo flights have continued as usual despite the corona virus. Pilot Evan was therefore able to continue flying in recent months. The corona crisis even saved him and his employer. “The company was on the verge of collapse, we had already received our notice period. But as the demand for air freight soared, we restarted with money from the British government.”
“Freight has gone from about $ 14 (about $ 11.88) per kilo to more than $ 40 per kilo. As a result, our parent company has been able to pay off all its debts for the past five years in three months,” said Evan.
“Aircraft are being added, we are renewing the fleet with more efficient aircraft. They are now dirt cheap because passenger planes have been canceled, aircraft makers are in trouble and they want to get rid of them,” he explains.
‘Back to the old level in three to four years’
The stories of Richard and Evan are the exceptions. “Aviation has been cut back to death,” says Maurice. “Pilots earn above average, but there is also a price tag. We have training, exams and work stress. In addition, I finally have a good night’s sleep, which I also missed.”
“The hit of the virus has hit everyone. Because the public is a bit done with flying. I also prefer not to board the plane now. I think that aviation will only be at the old level in three to four years, as far as we are concerned. passenger capacity. ”
So an uncertain future, but Bart sees him positively. “The last thing I want is to sell our house. But I am still wondering how we are going to close it. Because I can fly again every now and then, paying off the mortgage is a matter of whether Not. There will be a solution. How? I don’t know yet. ”
The full names of the pilots are known to the editors and their work has been verified.