Australian airline industry hit by pilot shortage

A report in the The Age, Australia, brings out the acute shortage of pilots being faced by sections of the country's aviation industry. According to the report, the situation is becoming precarious for some airlines, who, in their desperation, have travelled to former Eastern Bloc countries in Europe looking for recruits.

Some airlines, says the report, are being forced to cut down on the number of routes that they fly. Some aviation businesses have even closed. The shortage is being blamed on the massive growth of airlines in Australia and Asia.

According to the report, regional airlines in Australia are blaming Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Blue for "raiding" regional airlines, flying schools and aviation businesses. The country's second-largest regional airline, Rex, tried to recruit from East Europe but ran into language problems. It now intends to hunt in English speaking areas.

The airline says that lost 20 per cent of its pilots in the past three months to larger airlines, compared to the 18 per cent that left in the last financial year. Mainly because of its pilot shortage Rex has lifted its cancellation rates to four times historic levels, and says that it may have to stop flying on some routes if the problem continues.

According to Rex, 1800 airline pilots would be needed in the next couple of years to keep up with Australia's airline industry. The problem, of course, is that on average, only 380 airline pilot licences are granted each year in the country.

It is estimated that Qantas alone will need 300 pilots over the next two years. Jetstar says it will need 200 and Virgin Blue, which has 561, says it will "need several hundred" more over the coming five years.