For contractual pilots, the seasonality of the airline industry continues to hold bearing on the number of flying jobs available. Indeed, the onset of winter often heralds significant hardship for jobless pilots as airlines roll back their operations and charter companies dismiss unneeded staff. Moreover, last February marked a winter of discontent for European carriers, with the culmination of ongoing financial difficulties resulting in the collapse of both Malév and Spanair, amid wider industry losses and cut backs. However, despite the slower growth profile customary for European carriers over the colder months, the experts at AviationCV point out this doesn’t necessarily mean reduced opportunities for out-of-work pilots.
Seasonal fluctuations are illustrated most acutely in IATA’s global traffic monitor. Although airline passenger traffic, measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK) has maintained stable growth over the past ten years, the variation in RPKs between summer and winter seasons has increased almost twofold over the same period. For many parts of the world, this translates into summers of exceptional traffic activity followed by winters of stronger than average decline. Indeed, in the case of Europe last year, the highest period of summer traffic exceeded the winter low point by almost 62 percent. Such a phenomenon is consistent with the economics of a liberalised air transport industry as carriers allocate capacity where it is needed based on seasonality. This is particularly relevant in Europe, whereby heightened integration of its markets has fostered consolidation of the airline industry.
‘The wealth of opportunities afforded to pilots in the region’s high season – summer, begin to deteriorate around mid to late October. During this time, airlines tend to cut their level of flight frequencies and in some cases may consider the temporary grounding of aircraft. For contractual pilots, the suspension of seasonal routes for many charter carriers often results in the conclusion of their indenture. The problem arises when they attempt to obtain work elsewhere, as many pilots have reported difficulties in negotiating a contract for the duration of the winter season,’ comments the CEO of AviationCV.com, Skaiste Knyzaite.
Prospects for the upcoming winter months are not necessarily downcast, however. Indeed, while the colder months may present the low season for Europe, in North America the opposite is in fact true for certain sectors of the aviation market. For December through to February, the region has traditionally seen a spike in traffic activity concentrated primarily on the service of sun-soaked destinations for leisure travellers.
For instance, Canadian based carriers Canjet and Sunwing are expected to bolster the increased demand to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean through overseas contractual employment and wet-lease arrangements. The carriers will look to Europe to solve their staffing concerns, with the latter expected to bring in some 130 pilots over the next winter. In addition, the Emirati based low-cost carrier, FlyDubai is recruiting pilots to service its planned foray into the Russian and Ukrainian markets, coinciding with the start of the winter travel season.
‘Taking advantage of flying opportunities abroad provides a rewarding experience in terms of both career advancement and contact with different operational environments. However, the decision to move abroad poses some unique complications for pilots, including unfamiliarity with local industrial relation laws, conversion of the relevant documents and licenses as well as disputes arising through working conditions predetermined ahead of time. Fortunately, it is possible for pilots to mitigate these concerns through the use of flight crew leasing agencies. Such agencies work with airlines to deliver enhanced solutions in dealing with seasonal variations in demand as well as assisting pilots in matters related to their contractual employment. They also provide an avenue for pilots to increase their exposure to airlines during times of market stagnation,’ asserts Skaiste Knyzaite, CEO of AviationCV.com.