As looming financial difficulties continue to hinder the growth of airlines in Europe and North America, Indonesia is seeing something of a tenacious revival. Aviation has long been the backbone of transportation in the SE-Asian country owing to its wide geographical dispersion and severe lack of regional transport alternatives. Indeed, by 2030 the archipelago nation is predicted to hold over half of the total aircraft units in the ASEAN group of states. This is being fuelled largely by ongoing passenger growth, which has amounted to between 15 and 25 percent over the past five years. Such a transformation will of course warrant sizable growth in flight crew numbers and efforts to stave off the ineffectiveness of current pilot training institutions. However, with the wealth of opportunities presented to foreign pilots, we ask the question: what can one expect from a career in Indonesia?
As a centre for airline growth in the region, Indonesia is expected to need in excess of 18,000 pilots over the near future in order to meet the country’s 8 percent year-on-year flight sector growth. Preliminary figures of a further 4,000 pilots, 7,500 maintenance specialists and 1,000 ATC personnel in the country are alone necessitated under regional market liberalisation policies to be passed in Indonesia over the next 8 years. Although such growth is pleasing news for the wider industry, a crisis emanates from serious shortfalls in the country’s pilot training institutions. Despite a population on par with that of the United States, Indonesia hosts a grand total of 13 different flight training schools, in comparison to the 1,000 plus schools scattered across the US. Industry analysts assert that the country currently faces a shortage of as many as 200 pilots each year, with conditions set to deteriorate unless drastic changes are sought.
‘In response to pilot training deficiencies in Indonesia, recent years have seen the country increase its reliance upon foreign crew to service its extensive flight networks. Carriers including Lion Air, Susi Air and Sriwijaya all have sizable expat bases from across Europe and North America. The starting pay is typically below industry standards but the carriers often afford ample opportunities for career progression,’ comments the CEO of AviationCV.com, Skaiste Knyzaite.
However, S. Knyzaite is quick to point out that accepting an expat position in Indonesia is not for everyone. A number of expat pilots have reported frustration with adjusting to living conditions in the country. The fact remains that nepotism and a dependency on hierarchy are central pillars of business life in Indonesia, resulting in the cumbersome bureaucratic difficulties faced by many foreigners. Indonesia also has one of the lowest world rankings for the cultural dimension of individualism (14 compared to the global average of 43). This places a heavy strain on workplace relations for expats unaccustomed to such an ethos. Specifically, in the case of a cockpit environment, this has the potential to engender conflict or misunderstandings between multiethnic crew, resulting in less than optimal flight conditions. Dealing with such situations may also prove precarious, as a number of expat pilots have reported facing unusually punitive company policies in response to operational breaches. In addition, foreigners should expect lower standards and regularity of English language levels compared to most neighbouring countries.
‘It is important that pilots take the time to familiarise themselves with the cultural and living environments of their intended country prior to accepting a position abroad. In the case of Indonesia, there are many resources available to assist expats in becoming acquainted with life in this Islamic country, as well as the type of treatment and conditions one might expect in the country’s aviation sector. Moreover, air transport in the country continues to be hampered by an appalling safety record, so pilots should be aware of the likelihood for substandard infrastructure and regulation. Facing all these issues alone can prove quite a conundrum. However, many flight crew leasing agencies have a long line of experience assisting their pilots with both official and unexpected issues from before dispatch right through to the end of the pilot’s contract,’ said Skaiste Knyzaite, CEO of AviationCV.com.