Coronavirus: Pilot who lost job due to Flybe collapse becomes trucker to deliver vital supplies to stores

After spending £100,000 training for dream job, pilot swaps careers during coronavirus to help keep UK shelves stocked

Aaron Leventhal who lost his job at Flybe following the firm's collapse is now working as a truck driver delivering supplies in the coronavirus outbreak.
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A pilot who lost his dream job following the collapse of beleaguered airline Flybe has turned to trucking to help deliver vital supplies across the UK during the coronavirus outbreak.

After spending £100,000 (Dh457,480) on training to become a pilot, Aaron Leventhal  was left "shattered and devastated" last month when Europe’s largest regional airline Flybe went into administration.

The firm collapsed just weeks before the impact of coronavirus was truly realised.

With the outbreak seeing planes grounded and flights suspended, the 36-year-old decided to take up a different position to help in the UK's coronavirus efforts to help keep shop shelves stocked.

"I was absolutely devastated when Flybe went under," he told The National.

"From the age of 13 I wanted to be a pilot, I trained throughout my 20s, to realise my dream. It has cost me £100,000 and I worked as a petrol tanker driver to help pay for it.

"When Flybe went into administration I saw a job advertised as a truck driver to take deliveries to supermarkets, they were desperate for staff to help keep the shelves full during the lockdown.

"I just wanted to do my bit to help, the real heroes are the NHS workers on the frontline. I feel a sense of pride being able to help though."

Aaron Leventhal who lost his job at FlyBe and is now working as a truck driver delivering supplies in the coronavirus outbreak.
Aaron Leventhal who lost his job at FlyBe and is now working as a truck driver delivering supplies in the coronavirus outbreak.

More than 2,500 people lost their jobs when Flybe collapsed in March less than two months after the UK government had announced a rescue deal.

The airline’s owners Connect Airways – a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and the hedge fund Cyrus Capital – had purchased it just over a year earlier.

On Monday, Sir Richard Branson warned that airline Virgin Atlantic needed £500m government support to survive.

Mr Leventhal now works for supermarket firm Tesco and says he has been overwhelmed by the support he has received.

He shared the loss of his job and his new role on LinkedIn and so far more than 3 million people have viewed his post.

"It breaks my heart not flying, but I'm lucky to get work during this time," he said.

"It took me 10 years to become a pilot, I self-funded myself. I had been with Flybe for 13 months when this happened. I'm not going to give up on my dream and I hope when airlines begin recruiting again I can get back into the air but for now it is still rewarding being able to play my part."

Flybe had operated 40 per cent of the UK's domestic flights and was used by 8 million people.

The firm's administrator said coronavirus had “added pressures” on the travel industry that had made Flybe's precarious financial situation worse.

The UK government is presently working with the industry to save key routes.

It had operated from airports including Belfast, Southampton, Manchester and Birmingham.

It was the second major British airline to go bankrupt in six months after the collapse of Thomas Cook last year.

Globally, airlines are looking at ways to not only contain the coronavirus but also reduce costs as revenues dry up.

Last month Emirates Airline staff took a temporary pay cut and Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong reduced its passenger capacity by 96 per cent until May.

Singapore Airlines has also announced a 96 per cent drop in flights until at least the end of April.

Meanwhile, American Airlines said it was reducing flights by up to 75 per cent last week.