600 pilots needed in budget carrier flydubai's expansion

The budget carrier flydubai plans to hire 600 pilots over the next four years as it plans for an eventual fleet of 54 short-haul Boeing 737s.

A new Boeing Next Generation 737 jet for FlyDubai sits outside Boeing's manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington.
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The budget carrier flydubai is set to embark on an aggressive hiring campaign for 600 pilots over the next four years to drive the airline's next phase of growth.

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The effort will increase the airline's ranks to more than 800 pilots as it plans for an eventual fleet of 54 short-haul Boeing 737s by 2016.

It is just one of several Gulf airlines set to double or triple in size over the next decade, and become a magnet for aviation professionals from around the world.

"With our fleet and network set to grow at pace in the years ahead, we are recruiting pilots of all type ratings aggressively to ensure we will have the staff to meet our operational requirements," said Ghaith al Ghaith, the chief executive of flydubai.

Launched in June 2009, flydubai has quickly expanded to become the second-largest airline operating out of Dubai International Airport, after Emirates Airline.

It now has 17 Boeing 737s flying to 36 cities in the Middle East, Africa, south Asia and the former Soviet Republic countries.

It has a total workforce of more than 1,000, with more than 440 cabin crew and 230 pilots from 85 countries.

The airline requires seven captains and seven first officers for each Boeing 737. To support its external recruitment, flydubai has also implemented an in-house captain upgrade scheme, the company said.

To attract top talent, regional airlines also often offer competitive salary packages that can include housing and education stipends for families, and no income tax.

But this has created competitive tension as some airlines in India and South East Asia complain about Gulf airlines "stealing pilots".

The staffing demands are enormous and driven by aircraft deliveries.

The big three Gulf operators, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, collectively have more than US$100 billion (Dh367.29bn) worth of jets on order for delivery this decade.

In the UAE, Emirates and Etihad are expected to create 60,000 new positions for cabin crew, pilots and other staff over the next 10 years.

With flydubai, Air Arabia and RAK Airways also operating, the Emirates will probably be a major driver of aviation staffing this decade.

In the past few years, as airlines in other parts of the world shed jobs to withstand the downturn, Gulf airlines were well placed to recruit pilots.

But this could be merely a "short-term bounty" of qualified aviation workers and the airlines could find recruitment drives tougher in the years ahead, specialists say.