Quitting your job and jumping ship to another company isn’t as simple when you’re a pilot. Losing your seniority is something that many pilots just aren’t willing to sacrifice, a factor that massively stabilises an airlines pilot retention rates. However, while rare, switching airlines is something that does happen and these are the top 6 reasons why.


It was just a stepping stone to your dream job

One of the most challenging chapters of a pilots career comes right after earning your commercial pilot license. For the majority, your license alone won’t qualify you to walk into the career of your dreams, and thus you must find work as a low-time pilot in order to build up experience. Most regional pilots have aspirations of flying for a major airline and will make the jump as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

“If you choose well and are blessed with good luck, you may only have to work for two employers before landing that dream job. A greater degree of flexibility will help you choose the right path in the first place, and if things don’t quite work out as planned, you should not hesitate to make a course correction. Aviation is not for passive people who just let things happen to them. Take charge of your career, and you will be happier than those who feel cheated by circumstance.”
Sam Weigel, Pilot


You don’t like how the airline operates

While different airlines will be similar in nature in certain aspects, each airline will operate differently in how they treat their staff. Sometimes this can the sole reason for why a pilot will switch airlines.
One disgruntled pilot took to Glassdoor to claim, “You will be worked to within an inch of your life. Don’t expect to be at home every night, you will cover the network as necessary. You cannot make any plans in your working block as it’s likely to change at short notice. Expect to be spoken to like you are a child.’’


You want to switch from short to long haul (or vice versa)

Long or short haul, life as a pilot will never be a 9-5 job. Typically newly qualified pilots will fly short haul operations at the start of their career, predominantly to give them more experience and exposure to the operation. (A junior pilot could perform as many as 3 take off and landings a day, whereas a long haul pilot will often only perform 3 take off and landings each month.)
However, it has been known that pilots who have undertaken long haul positions revert quickly back to short haul as they struggle to deal with the constant change of time zones, or the requirements have negatively affected their relationships out of work.

“Long haul flying can impact on families as every time you go to work you are typically away for at least 2 nights although it could be up to 4 or 5, some families or should I say partners this may benefit their relationship and others may struggle with this.”
Name Unknown, Pilot


It’s not what you expected

Like in any profession, there is often a big difference between the perception of what a job would be like and the day-to-day life of actually doing it.

“A square peg will never be happy in a round hole, and I suspect that basic incompatibility has been responsible for most of the unhappy co-workers I’ve encountered. Before committing to an airline career and heading down that particular path, I think the prospective pilot needs to take a really honest look at what is actually involved, as well as their own personality and preferences.”
Sam Weigel, Pilot


Something happens out of your control

The airline industry is one of the most volatile industries in the world to work in. In 2017, over 400 pilots lost their jobs overnight when airline Monarch went into administration. Monarch claimed the decline in sterling (post Brexit referendum result) left them paying more than £50m a year more for its fuel and aircraft. They also cited the bombing of a Russian Metrojet airline in 2015, and the shootings in Sousse in 2015 affected their operating routes and contributed to the airlines demise.
While your airline may (on the outlook) seem stable, changes in fuel prices, a terrorist attack, bankruptcies or a major recession could instantly affect the future of an airline, and your career. Most airline pilots of a certain age have lived through some of these scenarios.



You miss home

It’s fairly common in the pilot community to relocate overseas to work for their chosen airline. Newly qualified pilots in particular must consider relocating as more jobs opportunities are becoming available in areas such as China, UAE, Asia-Pacific and Europe.
Some of the bigger commercial airlines in areas such as Asia-Pacific and the Middle East attract in experienced pilots with tax free earnings and inclusive packages that are simply hard to refuse. However, as Dorothy quite rightly said, ‘there’s no place like home,’ a huge contributing factor as to why pilots return back to their home country after a few years overseas.

“A lot of people have jumped ship to be expats to places that are flush with cash that will pay exorbitant amounts. The flip side to that is that it wears on you after a few years unless you are really adapted to a new culture. After you do it for three or four years, you need to get back to whatever it is that you miss.”
Bob Seidel, CEO of Alerion Aviation



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