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Agency offers UK pilots major perks to crew Alliance E190s

written by Hannah Dowling | May 18, 2022

Alliance Airlines E190 (@randyuh)

A UK recruitment agency, claiming to operate on behalf of Alliance Airlines, is offering British pilots major perks to fly the carrier’s E190s, including “serviced apartments” and Qantas flights back home.

Emails to prospective employees, seen by Australian Aviation, state it’s seeking both captains and first officers for 12-month contracts in Darwin and Adelaide, with roles to commence within a month.

It comes as the industry faces major skill shortages globally, with international airlines adding to the local problem by actively poaching Australian pilots during lockdown last year. It also follows Alliance rapidly expanding its E190 fleet to 21 aircraft, with another 12 on order.

According to the email, up to 30 pilots, including 15 first officers and 15 captains, are being sought out under an unspecified short-term skilled worker visa program.

First officers would be offered salaries of around $76,000, while the proposed salary for captains is still being negotiated, the email notes.

The employees would be also provided with accommodation, as well as “concessional” commuter benefits back to the UK on Qantas flights, on a “two months on, two weeks off” roster.

It comes just two weeks after Qantas made a bid to purchase the remaining 80.1 per cent stake in Alliance, which would see the carrier become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Flying Kangaroo.

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It also comes as Qantas continues to expand its existing wet lease agreement with Alliance, to operate 14 QantasLink-branded Embraer E190s, crewed by Alliance personnel. The agreement offers Qantas options to use up to 18 Alliance E190s under the QantasLink brand.

According to Kirsty Ferguson, founder of Australian aviation recruitment firm Pinstripe Solutions, it is “very rare” for overseas pilots to be hired in Australia, when more often the opposite is true, and Australian pilots are recruited to overseas airlines, such as to the US.

However, she did suggest that issues within the aviation training pipeline could be contributing to Alliance’s desire to bring in type-rated E190 pilots from overseas.

“We can see carriers both here and overseas initially prioritising type-rated pilots, as this facilitates getting them back online more quickly. This makes sense as our industry ramps up,” she said.

UK-based regional carrier Flybe had 25 Embraer E-jet aircraft before going under in 2020, while British Airways’ regional arm BA CityFlyer currently operates 24 E190s.

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed to Australian Aviation that pilots remain on the list of approved occupations for skilled migration, allowing organisations to hire from overseas using “a number of temporary visa options” once certain conditions are met.

Businesses who hire overseas staff must first advertise the role on three national jobs websites for a month in order to prove no Australian citizen was capable of taking on the role.

They also have to pay visa costs and additional expenses for migration agents, which regularly cost up to $10,000.

Before the pandemic, using these temporary visas to bring in skilled pilots from overseas was not hugely common.

In 2017-18, the Department of Home Affairs issued just 16 temporary skilled worker visas to pilots, after issuing just 15 the year prior.

Meanwhile, pilot unions questioned why more steps weren’t being taken to hire and train Australian pilots for these roles and queried why overseas pilots are the most suitable solution.

“Australian pilots, particularly airline pilots, have been amongst the hardest hit employees by the pandemic,” said AFAP president Captain Louise Pole in an email to members last night. “Most of us have endured significant stand downs and many have lost their jobs, such as the Tigerair pilots and Virgin ATR and wide-body pilots.

“Advertising for foreign pilots at this time is a betrayal of trust for all Australian pilots – the company’s existing pilots, currently-unemployed experienced Australian pilots and many pilots in general aviation who are looking to progress their aviation career.”

Captain Tony Lucas, president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, agreed, stating, “We would hope that Alliance Airlines would employ Australian pilots before considering foreign contract crew.”

Alliance Airlines declined to comment.

Comments (18)

  • Steve

    says:

    Plenty of pilots waiting in the ranks here in Australia. No excuses, this is an absolute disgrace.

    • phodge

      says:

      Well, that’s Qantas for you, even before they fully establish their monopoly!

    • R. Allcock

      says:

      What did you expect from Qantas!!?

      • Warwick

        says:

        QANTAS doesn’t OWN Alliance, so this information isn’t their decision.
        They’ve only a 19.9% share in it.

        Maybe get your facts right before denigrating our National Carrier.

    • Ashley

      says:

      Re-read paragraph 14, commencing with word ‘Businesses……

      Think that negates your comment.

    • Aussie FO

      says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I personally know of suitably qualified pilots who were invited to interview for these jobs at a short notice and never contacted again when they couldn’t make the given date and time.

  • Paul Blackshaw

    says:

    They will employ ready trained pilots because it costs less. This is the modern era. Loyalty to Australian pilots is close to zero.

  • Am amazed indeed that ALLIANCE has gone down this path, crikey, there would be dozens of unemployed pilots would jump at flying an EMB 190…wonder what’s behind all this ?

  • Homesick Ozy

    says:

    Plenty of Aussie pilots overseas that would love to come home to fly? The Government should stop issuing foreign pilots visas, when there is an oversupply, with so many Aussie pilots being retrenched during the COVID era.

  • Greg

    says:

    The reason they are struggling to fill Pilot seats is because they are offering well below industry standard pay.
    Attempting to fill the void with currently out of work and desperate type rated British Pilots is not consistent with the intent of temporary working visas.
    The NT Government recently granted $3.6m to this operation for training, marketing and promotion. The Department of Home Affairs should put their rubber stamp back in the draw until this has been properly investigated.

  • Aussie FO

    says:

    It sounds like it is an attempt to source cheap labour rather than trying to overcome training hurdles.

    There is no EBA for E190 jobs but FO roles were advertised in Australia with a salary around $100K at the beginning of 2022.

    $76K p.a. mentioned here is WAY below the Air Pilots Award for the narrow body.

  • christopher Kohler

    says:

    The problem for many airlines including Alliance is finding type rated pilots that they need now and there would be many B737 and A320 endorsed crews out there for those type aircraft but there would not be near as many E190 rated pilots available and airlines do not have time or money to get a pilots type endorsement

  • Chris De Jager

    says:

    Another kick in the nuts for unemplyed pilots here in Australia

  • Rod Pickin

    says:

    It would appear by way of the company actions that they have advertised the positions as per the Dept. of Home Affairs requirements to no avail but considering the inputs from pilot industry associations some doubt is there about the actual situation. Were the advertisements specifically focused for suitably qualified E190 tech crews only? – if so the question has been answered, most likely none are available in Oz. However, it is most likely that there are many, possibly very many qualified B737/A320 or similar operatives available now and not mentioned in the advertisements, – of course it is cheaper to get out of house trained crews than via in house training so there is the most likely answer to the current problem. It would be interesting to see the complete costings associated with the hiring and maintaining of these overseas crews as opposed to the costs for a type conversion which Alliance would be well aware of but no doubt time is of the essence here. It has to be noted here, again, that our industry has changed and will continue to so do, I don’t necessarily agree with some of the changes but change it has to be. Currently we have experienced and professional crews available for world wide aircraft deliveries, all types, just pick up the phone and make a booking, look at some of the worlds largest and respected airlines, look inside their flight decks, they are full of a united nations crew of highly trained and continually checked professionals inc. Ozzies; – that’s the way it is. Thinking ahead, I don’t think it will happen but, will QF train it’s personnel required for the A350/A320/A321/A220 or go out of house as a cost saving exercise?; – interesting times

  • Neil

    says:

    Seems like a terrible waste of money to get a UK Recruitment Agency to Recruit overseas Pilots for one of our Airlines! What’s Wrong with our Pilots? Can’t we remember how we lost so many Quality Pilots during the Pandemic and the grounding of Qantas and Virgin, surely Alliance could redeploy and retrain some of these pilots that lost their jobs, to fly these E190s .Also these Pilots would have local knowledge of flying within Australia.

  • Where are all the former Virgin E 190 aircrew?
    Surely it cant be too difficult to re-certify some or all of same.

  • Rod Bruce

    says:

    The reporting should have been ALLIANCE WAS TOO ARROGANT TO COMMENT!?

  • Mark

    says:

    As only major operator of Embraers in UK is BA – Qantas/Alliance targeting their pilots – might cause a bit of friction in OneWorld .

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