Even more UNCERTAINTY ahead
even without the pandemic, as a ‘contractor’ pilot – on a precarious agency contract – there is always this uncertainty that just sits constantly there at the back of your mind.
COVID-19 was openly admitted by China on December 31-2019, the day I was finishing my contract and taking a well-needed 2,5 months break after a summer filled with intense travel and flying. Before then, there was no word of COVID and if anyone told me a global pandemic would ground air travel worldwide, I am not sure I would have believed. But even without the pandemic, as a ‘contractor’ pilot – on a precarious agency contract – there is always this uncertainty that just sits constantly there at the back of your mind.
Because as a ‘contractor’ there is always a question mark if my contract will be renewed, at what conditions, when and for how long. The agency I work with, had already renewed my contract re-starting in March, travel was already arranged and I would take care of the housing during the recurrent training.
But just like thousands of other pilot colleagues, in the middle of March, after 2,5 months of non-flying, I suddenly found myself with no work. I simply received an email that the broker agency that provides crew to the client airline I flew for had cancelled my new contract due to the COVID-19 crisis. With its aircraft on the ground, the airline doesn’t need pilots. End of story.
As a former contractor for a broker agency I have neither access to furlough schemes, nor other financial support – simply because I am not a direct employee of the airline. Currently, I am living off my Savings Account. I also consider myself somehow lucky because I have access to mandated Healthcare insurance with basic coverage for about €150/month. At the same time, I have started looking for another part-time job to reduce the financial damage, hoping that I will be re-called once this COVID-19 crisis is over.
However, the uncertainty of my job prospects after this crisis is probably the hardest part for me to deal with. If this COVID-19 crisis lasts for an extensive period, it will create an additional financial burden: I haven’t flown since late December 2019 and I am worried about my currency as a pilot expiring. If I don’t have the flight hours in the air, or the required take-offs & landings, in order to stay current, I will become simply unemployable in the future.
The hardest part for me to deal with?
The uncertainty of my job prospects after this crisis
Even though, I am a pilot with extensive experience – 20+ yrs whereof 16 years as Commander – my fear is that the younger ones – with less experience but cheaper to hire – will have preference after this crisis. Previous crises have shown us that airline management can become extremely creative, setting up atypical employment schemes during such periods where people are keen to find a job. Some of the extremely low salaries, bogus self-employment, and exploitative Pay-to-Fly schemes have boomed exactly in such times. I fear that many airlines will simply abuse the COVID-19 crisis to push through such schemes – to the detriment of those flying their aircraft and wearing their uniform.
The impact of COVID-19 on our aviation industry and the type & quality of jobs it provides may therefore be much more profound and long-lasting than what we currently anticipate. I hope the future will prove me wrong!