In 2018 Spanish LCC Volotea plans to launch its 12th base in Athens. The growth is estimated to bring up to a 160% increase in its capacity and tickets to and from the new destination are already on sale. Yet experts say finding pilots might be a much harder task than selling seats. With pilots’ shortfall hitting one of the biggest company’s rivals Ryanair just a few months back, is Volotea also on the path of disappointing hundreds of thousands of travelers with its bold move?
Spanish airline currently connects 78 European cities in Europe and in 2018 says to open 58 new routes and two new bases in Bilbao and Marseille which would create additional 250 jobs. While this might sound like good news for ground staff professionals and MROs, finding qualified flight crew will be a tough egg to crack.
The industry has been bouncing around the term global pilot shortage for years now and recent events seem to indicate it’s far from being over. Horizon Air had to cancel 300 flights, while Republic Airways filed for bankruptcy and all due to a lack of pilots’ resources. Ryanair was the first European airline to suffer from the shortage. The official version is the holiday mess-up, however, experts point to a bigger problem.
The aviation industry needs another 600 thousand professional pilots to be recruited in the next 20 years – that’s one pilot every 15 minutes. And LCCs like Ryanair and Volotea are at a greater risk than any other type of airline because pilots tend to move on to carriers with better conditions after completing the initial flight hours. This leaves low fare airlines with a never-ending demand for new professionals – especially when they are constantly expanding, for example, Spanish Volotea.
“Global pilot shortfall is a well-known issue across the industry. We can only hope that Volotea is aware of the risks at stake. The new route from Athens to Verona will start in May next year, while flights to Heraklion will begin on April 26. Even though the new base will open in Q2 of 2018, tickets are on sale, which means that people are already investing their time, money and expectations into these trips,” comments Marius Stonkus, the CEO of a global flight compensation company SKYCOP.
“Because European law protects air travelers with up to €600 travel compensations, flight cancellations are an extremely costly measure to cover the empty cockpit. Ryanair is still struggling with its €53 million debt in travel compensations for all the afflicted and we truly hope that another LCC won’t go down the same road, leaving thousands of Europeans stranded.”
Regulation EC 261 entitles airlines to pay out flight compensations reaching from €250 to €600 in case of a cancelled, delayed or an overbooked flight.