Much Needed Progress With Bubble, Funding And Vaccine - But Still A Way To Go
“We are grateful and hopeful following news of the Trans-Tasman ‘travel bubble’ but there is still a long way to go until industry recovery,” says New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) President Captain Andrew Ridling.
“Along with the continued roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine and the announcement of a further $170 million government funding boost for the International Airfreight Capacity (IAFC) scheme last month, today’s announcement is very welcome,” said Captain Ridling.
“These developments are good news for the recovery of our aviation industry and are extremely good news for our furloughed colleagues and others who lost their careers due to Covid. Hundreds of New Zealand pilots’ careers ended a year ago, along with the careers of hundreds of cabin crew, while others were left clinging on to their roles, often on drastically reduced hours and wages.”
Captain Ridling said that this, coupled with highly restrictive but necessary conditions at the border, had added to a very stressful 12 months for pilots, crew and their families.
“It’s been the most challenging time in my thirty year career and in the leadership of New Zealand’s largest aviation association.”
While NZALPA continues to assess the overall impact of Covid on its membership, one of the outcomes has been much closer relationships with the Ministry of Transport, the Civil Aviation Authority, our airlines and other industry players.
“For the last 12 months, the focus has been on laying off and furloughing pilots. Now we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel and can look forward to many of those professionals returning to their careers.
“There have been many lessons learned through Covid and NZALPA hopes these can be applied in future. For example, we reached agreement with Air New Zealand to furlough pilots rather than have them lose their careers to redundancy, as might have happened in the past. Other airlines adopted a similar strategy. This means they will be able to get back up and running more quickly as international borders open, as well as having huge benefit for the pilots themselves.
“One disappointment is that more wasn’t done to keep the international flight training industry on our shores along with its significant export earnings. Inability to get visas or to operate their own self-funding MIQ centres saw millions of dollars and crucial expertise leave New Zealand, that is not likely to return.
“We’re optimistic many more pilots will be back in the skies in the coming months, and ironically we are likely to be short of pilots and trainers in the medium to longer term,” Captain Ridling said.
United Airlines has just announced it will hire around 300 pilots who had received conditional job offers or had training scheduled last year before the airline stopped hiring.
“While we appreciate stopping the pandemic was the priority, a forward-thinking economic recovery unit running parallel to those efforts and working with our industry would have helped quicker recovery, saved jobs and delivered much needed economic benefit to New Zealand.”