It's looking bleak out there. But maybe it's not all bad?
Lots of pilots are probably feeling a bit trapped at the moment. I don’t think any pilot in the world has the job security they’d like, even if they’re super senior in a legacy carrier. There are horror stories all over the place of job offers being withdrawn at the very last minute, masses of redundancies, unpaid leave and approximately zero jobs available. It's pretty bleak out there and easy to feel really down about the situation.
So, what can you do?
Well, luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of 6 options you may want to look at. They might just give you a glimmer of hope that all is not lost!
Option 1 - Broaden your horizons – try commuting or being an expat
Maybe when you started flying, you envisaged your perfect job being at your home country's national carrier, or maybe a convenient local airline. Now, for most people, these options aren't available, so it might be time to start thinking outside the box. Have you ever thought about being an expat for a few years? Or, if you don’t fancy living abroad full time, maybe you could look into getting a commuting contract - this allows you to 'live' where you want, but go away for chunks of time to work.
Before the lockdown, the biggest expansion in aviation (by a long way!) was in the Asian market. The Asian middle class is expanding at a rate of knots and new airlines were popping up left, right and centre to deal with the demand. China, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan – just to name a few – all have booming aviation markets, which you can get involved in. These countries simply don’t have enough local pilots to fly the aircraft, and often offer lucrative contracts for foreigners prepared to work for them.
Common perks of a commuting contract include:
- 3-5 year rolling contract
- Block of 9 – 14 days at home each month in your country of choice
- Free business class ticket to and from your home every month (or equivalent cash amount)
- Accommodation whilst at work (or a housing allowance)
- Decent pay
- Contract completion bonuses – up to $50k for certain carriers
- Private health insurance
- Favourable taxation agreements
- Ability to live anywhere you want
As with the rest of the world, these carriers are not currently recruiting, but will do as soon as a recovery starts. Some are still taking applications in order to get the process moving quickly when they need it. As the cultures and working practices are very different to the western world, there’s normally a recruitment agency involved as a go-between for you and the airline. They work with you throughout the recruitment and on boarding process, then once employed, they make sure your visa, pay and insurances are organised as per your residency.
Maybe just have a look at the airlines, to see if they tickle your fancy.
Airlines with commuting contracts:
- Korean Air
- Vietnam Airlines
- Eva Air
- China Southern
- Multiple domestic Chinese airlines
- Peach Aviation
- Jetstar Pacific
- Air Japan
Option 2 - Wait it out
Easier said than done, right?
Certainly, most people won’t be able to do this, but if you are fortunate enough to have the resources to do so, you might be able to just wait this whole thing out. However, keep in mind that it could take the aviation industry several years to recover fully from the crisis, so you will need some serious cash resources to keep yourself afloat for a while. Prior to the virus, the airline industry was expanding at a great rate. It'll take time to get back anywhere near previous levels, but jobs will start appearing again and if you're ready to go straight away, you may well be top of the pilot pile. With this approach, you really have to keep on top of your documents and expiry dates. There’s no point being ready and raring to go, but all your licenses having lapsed. Try to find a cheap training school close to you in order to keep your license and ratings up to date.
Option 3 - Get a temporary job
If you're going to come unstuck financially pretty quickly (like most of us), it's probably a wise idea to get a temporary job to keep some money coming in. I know it might feel like a backwards step, however it's important the keep yourself stable financially so when the aviation market picks back up, you're in good shape to apply to jobs you want, not simply having to apply because you need a job. When the dust settles, it’ll probably become clear that we’re back in recession mode which is pretty shoddy for everyone. Never fear though - there are some industries that tend to perform well in times of economic hardship, and these might be a good starting point for you to look for employment.
- Accountants/Financial Advisors/Economists
- Healthcare Providers
- Auto Repair/Maintenance
- DIY Shops
- Rental Properties/Property Management Agents
- Freelance/temp work
- HGV Drivers
Option 4 - Go solo
Maybe you want to become your own boss and go solo with your career. For many entrepreneurs, the current market instability is a massive excuse not to start on that business they’ve been planning. But, is that really the right decision? Building a business is no mean feat, I can tell you! There’s a seemingly endless flow of tasks to achieve what you want, and a recession may just not seem like the appropriate time to risk your time and money. Having said that, when’s the next time you’re going to have this much time on your hands?! Also, keep in mind that economic downturns create certain advantages for start ups. You can be really agile and flexible, enabling you to react quickly to the market as you start your business. There is also a disproportionate number of very skilled people out of work, who may be interested in working with you.
There are many examples of people who have spotted an opportunity during a recession and created massive, successful businesses. Some examples of huge businesses which were originally formed during recessions are: Microsoft, FedEx, Google, WhatsApp, Groupon and Uber. There will be a big desire for companies to become more efficient, so if you have an idea which helps with streamlining of processes or competitive outsourcing, you may well be on to a winner.
Maybe, a full business setup isn’t for you, but if you’ve got a bit of cash to play with, it might be really good time to do a bit of house flipping – buy a property, do it up and sell it on. Or, if you’re looking for more of a long term option, becoming a landlord can provide a steady income. Banks will be less willing to lend, which increases the number of renters on the market. With the fallout of the virus, you might just be able to snap up a bargain.
Option 5 - Completely retrain
Is it time to hang up your wings completely? Maybe you’re getting to the tail end of your flying career and don’t particularly want to go through a long pilot recruitment process and a new type rating. Or, maybe you’ve just decided that aviation isn’t what it once was, and you see opportunities elsewhere.
Option 6 - Join the Military
If you're a young whippersnapper, the military could be a wonderful place to progress your aviation career, and is about the most stable job you could possible have at the moment.
Whatever option you choose, I’m a big believer in doing something that makes you happy, rather than just for money. You can use this time of change as an opportunity – onwards and upwards!
Stay safe and happy landings.