Low-cost airlines exploit young pilots with pay-to-fly, union claims

Young pilots are being exploited by low-cost airlines which make them pay to work as co-pilots, the Dutch pilots’ union VNV said on Tuesday.

Airlines such as Ryanair, Wizz Air, Lion Air and freight flyer Farnair use a pay-to-fly system which exploits young pilots keen to fly a particular type of plane to achieve the required number of flying hours (the type rating), the union says.

The rate charged is between €25,000 and €40,000 depending on the number of months flying time the pilots are offered.

Young pilots are often desperate to find employment in what is a depressed jobs market, the VNV says. They are often already deep in debt from their training and need to keep up their flying hours and type rating to have any hope of finding a job.

The VNV estimates that around 250 Dutch pilots are being exploited by the pay-to-fly system.

It points out that the chance of a permanent job at the same airline is zero, because the airline will employ a new group of young pilots.

Wizz Air later issued a statement denying the union’s claims, saying they are completely false. ‘Our pilots enjoy a basic salary according to their rank and experience, to which additional pay is added in accordance of the number of work days and flight sectors operated each month,’ spokesman Daniel de Carvalho said.

Note: This article was updated on December 6

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