Last in, first out: Female pilots bear brunt of airline job cuts

Chicago/Sydney/Montreal, September 21

When Megyn Thompson landed her dream job as a business pilot final 12 months, she was one in every of 1000’s being recruited globally to spice up the variety of girls within the cockpit and meet report pilot demand.

Now an industry-wide marketing campaign to recruit extra feminine aviators is underneath menace, dealing a blow to efforts to overtake the male-dominated airline sector because the coronavirus disaster transforms a scarcity right into a pilot surplus.

In the United States alone, the highest two airways are set to furlough greater than 3,000 pilots when authorities stimulus expires this month, and a disproportionate variety of these are girls.

Under layoff agreements between airways and unions, junior pilots lose their jobs earlier than senior ones, no matter gender, race or age.

These “Last In, First Out” labour offers at many Western airways imply the newest hires are the primary to go.

And these new hires embrace the next share of girls than up to now, the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISWAP) mentioned.

Thompson, who flies with a regional service owned by American Airlines, is amongst at the least 600 feminine pilots within the United States who will probably be furloughed on Oct. 1 except there’s extra authorities payroll help or last-minute union offers.

Thompson, 32, mentioned her low seniority rating places her “smack-dab in the middle” of a furlough at American’s PSA affiliate, which expects to chop about 35% of its pilots.

“If you go back 40 years ago it was a man’s world through and through, so there are not a lot of women at the top who are protected from this furlough,” mentioned Thompson, who determined to not have organic kids as she constructed flying hours for her license.

“PSA is not letting (me) Megyn go because they don’t like her. It’s zero to do with that and 100% to do with, if you’re the last in, you’re the first out.”

Now the mom of three adopted kids is making use of for jobs at Amazon, Kellogg and PepsiCo.


Before the disaster, world air journey was rising at a report 5% a 12 months, producing a necessity for 804,000 pilots over the following 20 years, primarily based on Boeing Co estimates. The want for extra pilots had pushed feminine recruitment to the highest of the agenda.

But a shattered post-COVID {industry} doesn’t anticipate visitors to regain 2019 ranges and begin rising once more earlier than 2024.

“This year we were meant to launch a great big campaign which we have just put on hold because of what has happened,” mentioned Australian pilot Davida Forshaw, who heads schooling and outreach at ISWAP.

Despite the feminine recruitment marketing campaign, simply 5.3% of airline pilots globally had been girls earlier than the coronavirus disaster, ISWAP information reveals. That share is ready to drop once more as airways perform furlough plans, the group predicts.

At American and Delta Air Lines, girls make up round 5.2% of the mixed pilot inhabitants of about 27,800 and 6.7% of the three,645 pilots whom these airways anticipate to furlough, in keeping with numbers offered by their major pilot unions.

American Airlines declined to remark straight on the problem, however a spokesman mentioned the union information implied that the proportion of feminine pilots would slip post-furloughs to 4.9% from 5.1%.

Delta mentioned it was in discussions with unions on pilot departures however didn’t give a breakdown by gender.


The shakeout is doubtlessly damaging for an {industry} already struggling to enhance its range credentials, with a good tinier fraction of high administration jobs held by girls.

Boosting feminine pilot employment has grow to be a key aim after the {industry} was criticised final 12 months by airline executives of paying “lip-service” to range. ( The drive has additionally been at the vanguard of social change in nations comparable to India, which has the very best proportion of feminine business pilots on the earth at 12%, regardless of a society that usually frowns on girls in such jobs. Aside from feminine pilots being furloughed, many others have determined to take early retirement or misplaced jobs as airways went bust.

Australia’s first-ever feminine business pilot, Captain Deborah Lawrie, who broke by the glass ceiling at Ansett in 1980, was one in every of 220 pilots laid off in April when finances airline Tigerair Australia closed.

Only one-quarter of feminine pilots globally are captains, in keeping with ISWAP information.

Tammie Jo Shults, hailed as a hero after she calmly landed a stricken Southwest Airlines flight in 2018, is among the many feminine captains taking early retirement.

The must stability household and work in a occupation with frequent absences from residence has already made it a problem to draw feminine pilots. Shults mentioned the extra unsure profession prospects due to COVID will make it tougher.

Still, Shults, who served as one of many first feminine fighter pilots within the US Navy, urged girls to think about options like changing into firefighting pilots earlier than giving up on aviation.

“You can’t always follow your passion, but don’t leave it behind,” she mentioned. Reuters

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