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 industrial pilot final 12 months, she was considered one of hundreds being recruited globally to spice up the variety of ladies within the cockpit and meet report pilot demand.

Now an industry-wide marketing campaign to recruit extra feminine aviators is below 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 ladies.

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 ladies than prior to now, the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISWAP) mentioned.

Thompson, who flies with a regional service owned by American Airlines, is amongst not less than 600 feminine pilots within the United States who will likely be furloughed on Oct. 1 except there may be extra authorities payroll support 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, international 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 training and outreach at ISWAP.

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

At American and Delta Air Lines, ladies 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 accordance with numbers offered by their most important pilot unions.

American Airlines declined to remark straight on the problem, however a spokesman mentioned the union knowledge 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 probably damaging for an {industry} already struggling to enhance its range credentials, with an excellent tinier fraction of high administration jobs held by ladies.

Boosting feminine pilot employment has turn into a key objective 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 reminiscent of India, which has the very best proportion of feminine industrial pilots on the earth at 12%, regardless of a society that sometimes frowns on ladies 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 industrial pilot, Captain Deborah Lawrie, who broke by means of the glass ceiling at Ansett in 1980, was considered one of 220 pilots laid off in April when finances airline Tigerair Australia closed.

Only one-quarter of feminine pilots globally are captains, in accordance with ISWAP knowledge.

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 have to 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 ladies to think about options like turning 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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