MAJOR carriers have defended their recruitment processes after an angry attack by Regional Express (Rex), which has blamed “pilot poaching” for its crew shortages and service disruptions.
The regional carrier issued an open letter on Fri accusing Qantas and Virgin Australia of “rapacious plundering” of its pilot pool, saying the major carriers had taken 17% of its first officers and 56% of its captains in two years.
“These two airlines are causing widespread chaos and disruptions to regional air travel by their selfish and irresponsible actions,” Rex said.
“Because of the critical pilot shortage, Rex is not able to have its usual contingent of stand-by pilots rostered for duty.”
Rex said its Australian Airline Pilot Academy had trained over 220 cadets in the past decade, and said the major carriers were not utilising their resources to train their own pilots.
A Qantas spokesperson rejected the accusations saying “It’s strange for a company to blame its competitor for its employee retention problems”.
“It’s natural to see some movement between airlines from people seeking advancement, just like in every other industry,” the spokesperson said.
“No Australian airline invests more in training pilots than the Qantas Group.”
Earlier this year Qantas announced the establishment of a pilot academy able to train up to 500 pilots a year (TD 22 Feb).
A Virgin Australia spokesperson said the airline “strongly rejects any suggestions of impacting regional air service through our pilot recruitment”.
“We have a comprehensive pilot recruitment and training process which includes running our own Virgin Australia Cadetship program in partnership with Flight Training Adelaide and working with a number of Australian universities to provide input into their pilot training,” the spokesperson said.
“We’re proud to offer a strong career path and development program, with almost 80% of current pilots having been with us for more than five years.”