A recent survey of pilots paints a “bleak” picture in which more than a third remain not flying for a living, and almost a fifth remain unemployed in the wake of the pandemic.

The survey, undertaken by aviation news outlet FlightGlobal and aviation recruitment agency Goose in the final quarter of 2021, interviewed over 1,700 professional pilots on their employment status and overall feelings about the industry.

Despite considerably fewer lockdowns taking place last year, the industry’s recovery was hampered by mass staff absences, border closures, confusing quarantine rules and a myriad of other measures intended to mitigate COVID’s spread.

Asia-Pacific trails behind the global recovery

Regional differences mirror the considerable variation in travel restrictions across the globe, with the percentage of pilots flying in the Asia-Pacific region trailing at only 53% – the global figure being 62%. The global figure the previous year was reported as 43%.

Key findings show that although employment prospects and career optimism have recovered significantly from the low ebb of 2020, the industry has a long way before it reaches the pre-pandemic confidence levels.

Globally, almost a quarter of surveyed unemployed pilots stated they were “not at all confident” about the prospect of returning to flying, with an even higher regional figure in Europe, 28%, and North America, 40%.

Mandatory vaccinations remain controversial

Globally, 90% of surveyed pilots state they are double vaccinated. But once again, the survey points the spotlight on the vast regional differences. In North America, for example, only 57% believe that vaccinations should be mandatory, compared with 68% globally, and 20% of pilots in the region remain not fully vaccinated.

Person being vaccinated
Mandatory vaccination remains a controversial topic across the industry | © Mufid Majnun / Unsplash

The pandemic came at a pivotal time for the industry, when governments across the world continued to push for increased sustainability and even a decrease in the number of overall passengers in order to achieve this. Interestingly, the survey highlights near-universal concerns of an impending pilot shortage, and despite confidence, the industry will recover within a matter of years, perhaps the adjustment to fewer pilots is just a matter of time.

Is the number of pilots ever likely to reach pre-pandemic levels? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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