British Airways launches major recruitment drive

Britain's biggest airline will take on 800 new pilots to cope with expanding fleet.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 11 Aug 2011

British Airways is poised to launch its biggest recruitment drive in a decade.  The airline is expanding pilot numbers by 800 and it’s using YouTube to entice pilots willing to meet the £100,000 training cost.

The airline, which currently has 3,200 pilots, says it’s increasing pilot numbers by 25% because the airline is expanding its fleet. This means current pilots will be reshuffled to fly the new aircrafts, which includes the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A380, creating space for new pilots.  

A YouTube video has already been posted by the airline to attract a wider range of applicants and to advertise a new training programme (any MT readers wanting a career change can check out the video here). It’s well known that becoming an airline pilot isn’t cheap: it costs around £100,000 to train, which is funded by the trainees themselves.  So BA’s come up with a solution: the ‘Future Pilot Programme,’ which will provide half of the new pilots.  The programme means aspiring pilots will still have to meet the costs themselves but they can repay the money later. They’ll also be guaranteed a job with BA at the end of it, which should make it easier to raise the money to cover training costs.  The remaining 400 recruits will be poached from rival airlines and the Armed Forces.

BA’s recruitment drive comes on the tail of Virgin Atlantic’s announcement that it’s undertaking a major recruitment take-off of its own.  More than 1,000 new jobs will be created for cabin crew and pilots as the airline also expands its aircraft carriers.

It might seem odd that the airline industry is expanding at the same time as grappling with soaring fuel prices and economic uncertainty.  Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, admitted yesterday that last year was the ‘toughest economic period for aviation’ due to ‘consumer confidence flatlining and higher fuel prices.’  On the other hand, there are some positive signs for the industry.  Virgin Atlantic managed to reverse £132m of losses to post a £18.5m pre-tax profit in 2010.  British Airways also swung back to a first-half profit, posting an operating profit of €210m. Considering the airline industry was one of many to implement a recruitment freeze during the recession, it seems airlines have overcome the jet lag and realise they now have a shortage of pilots.   

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