Gulf carriers offer opportunities for pilots axed by Qantas

As struggling Australian carrier Qantas made 100 pilots redundant, Gulf carriers can jump on the opportunity to hire them, as they need recruits for their rapid expansion plans.
Qantas has said it will start voluntary redundancies of pilots as it aims to cut costs. Torsten Blackwood / AFP
Qantas has said it will start voluntary redundancies of pilots as it aims to cut costs. Torsten Blackwood / AFP

The first major job losses at Qantas in 40 years are being perceived as a hiring opportunity for pilot-hungry Gulf carriers.

Qantas, a codeshare partner of Emirates Airline, said it would cut about 5,000 jobs in February, and is now seeking voluntary redundancies among pilots. It comes at a time when Gulf carriers including Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways are in rapid expansion mode.

A Qantas spokesman told AFP it was not placing an exact number on the redundancies until the application process was complete, but reports said up to 100 positions, or just under 20 per cent of the 550 pilots for its Boeing 747 and 767 fleets, were targeted.

Qantas has about 2,000 pilots on its books.

“Qantas pilots laid off could well find new jobs here,” said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research. “Pilots are sought after everywhere and the GCC represents a hugely talented and maturing market. Any laid-off pilots will naturally look to the Gulf for employment since this is the one key region witnessing explosive growth.”

Hit by high fuel costs, aggressive competition and slow international demand, Qantas also faces tough competition at home, highlighted by a price war with Virgin Australia, a partner of Etihad.

Meanwhile, Gulf carriers are going through fast expansion plans.

“The immense numbers of new airplanes on order require pilots, the likes of Emirates and others make no secret of the fact that they are actively looking for and recruiting new flight crews,” said Mr Ahmad.

Emirates made headlines at Dubai’s Airshow in November when it ordered US$99 billion worth of aircraft – including the 777X from Boeing and the A380 superjumbo from its European rival Airbus. The carrier, which started its operations in 1985, currently has 217 aircraft in its fleet.

Meanwhile, Etihad announced 199 aircraft orders from Boeing and Airbus. This year it expects 20 aircraft deliveries, which will include Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A380s.

In February, Etihad launched a recruitment campaign in Sydney and Melbourne. The carrier currently has about 350 Australian recruits – including 52 pilots and 83 cabin crew.

Scott Rehn, chief executive of US-based Aero Crew Solutions said that Qantas pilots would be in high demand among regional carriers.

“It’s an individual issue, some pilots like to move overseas, but it also depends on a case by case basis – what is good for them and their families.”

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Published: May 14, 2014 04:00 AM


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