Learn to fly: Pilot shortage puts Vietnamese airlines on standby

By VnExpress   January 13, 2017 | 09:26 am GMT+7
Learn to fly: Pilot shortage puts Vietnamese airlines on standby
Captain Basel Taleb Al Shahrour (L) and co-pilot Le Trung Anh are seen inside the cockpit before a flight of Vietjet at Noi Bai International airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, January 10, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Kham

Big bonuses are being offered by airlines to woo more pilots.

Vietnamese airlines are grappling with what they believe to be a serious shortage of professional pilots, so to keep the pilots they currently have on their payrolls and to lure new ones, they are offering hefty bonuses.

“Vietnam’s airline market is growing rapidly, so there’s a huge demand for qualified professional pilots,” Lai Xuan Thanh, the director of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam, said at a recent meeting of transport authorities.

He added although salaries in the airline industry have increased significantly in recent years and many airlines have even offered fat bonuses to attract and retain professionals, the supply remains below the demand. According to the aviation administration, that demand is growing at 5 percent per year.

The CAAV has mainly blamed the shortage on the fast-growing airline market.

Vietnam’s airline industry is growing at the third-fastest pace in the Asia-Pacific region with the number people traveling by air in 2016 jumping by 29 percent from 2015 to about 52 million.

To meet the demand, local carriers have expanded in recent years, buying more planes, opening new routes and increasing the number of flights.

“At present, the shortage of pilots is endemic throughout the airline industry," Thanh said. "For example, only 30 percent of national flagship Vietnam Airlines’ pilots are Vietnamese. The figures at low-cost carriers Vietjet Air and Jetstar are much lower.” he said, implying that domestic airlines are having difficulties hiring enough pilots to replace retirees and to support expansion.

The aviation administration suggested that airlines could offer more bonuses and even set up partnerships with flight centers.

“The CAAV will not issue executive orders to help ease the shortage. Airlines will have to transform themselves to retain workers,” said Thanh.

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