Vietnamese airlines continue to be plagued by pilot shortage

By Thi Ha   February 21, 2019 | 08:21 pm PT
Vietnamese airlines continue to be plagued by pilot shortage
The aviation sector is in shortage of pilots. Photo by VnExpress
With increasing demand for pilots as they expand, Vietnamese airlines have had to raise salaries, spend more on training and hire foreign pilots.

Figures from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam show that by 2020 Vietnam will need a total of 2,680 pilots for commercial flights, 1,320 more than now.

Vietnam Airlines, the country's flag carrier, needs to hire 193 more pilots to increase the number on its payroll to 1,293 pilots to meet demand in 2019, according to the carrier's recent assessment report. 

The assessment forecast the demand to keep rising increasing to 1,340 by 2020 and 1,570 by 2025. This is a challenging number given the increasing shortage of pilots globally, according to industry insiders.

According to a recent report from Boeing, the global aviation industry will need 790,000 new pilots by 2037, or double the current number, driven by an anticipated doubling of the commercial airplane fleet, record travel demand and tightening labor supply.

Pilot training has always been extremely expensive, with stringent health and technical knowledge requirements, meaning that the number of pilots qualifying is always limited, according to industry insiders.

A former Vietnam Airlines pilot revealed that because of the shortage, soon after he gave notice of termination he received many offers from airlines both domestic and foreign. 

He said many other pilots at Vietnam Airlines also constantly offered 15-25 percent higher salaries by head hunters.

As a result the carrier has been focusing on hiring trainees. Duong Tri Thanh, its general director, said given the global shortage of pilots and carry out its expansion plans in time, Vietnam Airlines has been training internally and recruiting foreign pilots despite high costs.

Similarly, Jetstar Pacific or Vietjet Air are facing difficulties filling their vacancies with pilots when trying to rapidly expand in South Korea, Japan, and other countries in Southeast Asia. Currently, the number of pilots at these firms is largely foreign due to limited domestic supply. Typically, at Jetstar Pacific, foreign pilots account for 80 percent of their fleet.

However, foreign pilots can be hard to come by since many other companies in Asia can offer them better remuneration and working conditions.

An aviation expert said airlines need to combat the pilot shortage by investing in training facilities and recruitment programs and subsidizing training for pilot trainees. 

Vietnam’s aviation industry has been growing rapidly in recent years. There were 12.5 million air passengers last year, up 14.4 percent from 2017.

The number of flights in the country grew by 16 percent on average between 2010 and 2017, according to official data.

Vienam’s five airlines are Vietnam Airlines, its low-cost carrier Jetstar Pacific, budget airline Vietjet Aviation, Bamboo Airways and Vietnam Air Services Co.

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