The future of aviation seems to be filled with optimism, as we consider our merry 10 years-worth of order backlog at Boeing and Airbus. However, the present might be a little darker, with the situation in the industry after the end of 2016 predicting – and already producing – cuts in many areas. But rather than being a curse, it might actually be a blessing for pilots looking for greater opportunities.
The results of the last quarter of 2016 surprised many. Despite the record RPK growth in November, many airlines in the Middle East reported large losses for the first time in years. From revenue drops of 15% and net losses of $9 million, to expectations of profits plummeting 68%, all major airlines are affected. The airlines’ officials blame overcapacity, slow growth in major hubs and European budget airlines entering the long haul market. And the action plan for the future includes increases in efficiency to offset the growth in capacity that has overtaken the growth in demand.
As usual, the jobs are first ones to suffer, from the top down. Etihad Airways has recently fired long-time CEO James Hogan over struggles with investment in airberlin and Alitalia. Air France is planning cuts that will extend to 2019. With no major growth in Europe and the slowing pace in the Middle East – as indicated by the fact that Etihad Airways and Lufthansa thoroughly squashed any rumors of mergers – many new pilots might find themselves looking for new employers.
“The situation in the Middle East is surprising,” says Skaiste Knyzaite, CEO of top aviation job portal AviationCV.com. “Gulf carriers used to be one of the major players in hiring experienced European pilots, as the Middle Eastern airlines could offer premium wages at a location that is not far from home. Now it seems that the pilots might be forced to cast their nets wider.”
At the same time, even the manufacturers as well as the engineers and mechanics working for them are affected. Union tally reported Boeing cuts of 11 000 in 2016, with more to come in 2017. Airbus isn’t free of rumors of restructuring, either. Even Bombardier is thinking about cuts, at least 2000 of which will affect 7 500 employees the company has in Canada. The production sector is about to see a glut of professionals who have engineering experience in the largest of industrial companies.
However, there are signs of positivity across the global aviation market – the growth is still strong in Asia. According to IATA, domestic traffic in China increased by over 11% and over 23% in India. Boeing predicts that China alone will need 111 000 pilots and 119 000 technicians in the coming years while Airbus reports that Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are already looking for third party companies to train pilots for them.
“The market is putting pilots and qualified personnel in a position that makes taking the leap to Asia a lot more lucrative. The lack of growth in their home regions as well as uncertain political situation and the economical unrest are all good reasons to seriously consider Asia,” says Skaiste Knyzaite. “Now it’s up for the recruiters to help the pilots and engineers find the best positions and greatest deals, as the offers often include more benefits than just wages and faster seniority.”
The possibility of unemployment is unpleasant to everyone. However, that is not the case for pilots, engineers and technicians, who come from highly specialized fields with sluggish production rates. They have to be mindful of the fact that aviation is a global industry and current downturn is localized: other regions offer many opportunities for the specialists that they can’t pull out of nowhere. Meaning, an experienced aviation professional doesn’t need to do much more than look for the right opportunities and choose the right offer.