The global airline industry, growing rapidly due to economic, technological, and demographic changes, is facing a shortage of airline pilots. With the increasing passenger traffic, the demand for commercial flights is now beginning to outweigh the resources available to deal with the growth. It has been estimated that over the course of the next 20 years the global airline industry will need to find 560,000 new airline pilots to sustain itself. What can be done to close this gap?

Since there are not enough pilots to feed the capacity, it is almost an arms race among the airlines to hire pilots. It is important for airlines to ensure they put all possible efforts to cope with the growing demand for flight crew. Airlines develop strategies to help solve their future needs and ensure they attract and retain the right crew. Training programmes, roadshows, collaborations with aviation universities – these are some of the things that airlines do to keep up with the situation.

Last year the largest ACMI operator in the world and the largest airline in Lithuania Avion Express announced a pilot training programme with BAA Training, one of the leading aviation training centres in Northern Europe, to support future aviation talents. Under the partnership, aspiring pilots with little to no flying experience are prepared to fill vacancies for the expanding fleet of Airbus A319, A320, and A321 aircraft operated by Avion Express. Young candidates are usually chosen from scratch, with no prior experience, and are groomed in a tightly controlled regimen that puts them in the cockpit fairly quickly.

The training programme was launched in an effort to meet the constantly growing demand for new pilots, who are taught in line with the specific requirements and needs of Avion Express. Therefore, this programme gives these fresh pilots a unique chance to join the airline if they successfully complete the course.

Another institution that Avion Express has partnered up with to ensure they attract qualified employees is the Lithuanian Aviation Academy (VGTU A. Gustaitis’ Aviation Institute (AGAI)). Avion Express has always relied on VGTU AGAI when it came to professional staff. As such, the airline’s Vice President Technical Romas Žakys, the airline’s First Officer Rūta Pleikė, as well as numerous other employees, are the Lithuanian Aviation Academy alumni.

Avion Express appreciates that with the growing aviation sector it is important to sponsor the academic activity at VGTU, especially those pursuing Aircraft Studies. In 2015 Avion Express donated the cockpit of the first Airbus A320 aircraft that was ever registered in Lithuania (LY-VEX) to the institution. The cockpit was separated from the hull and shipped over to Vilnius from Montreal, Canada. It has been put to good use with the engineering students gathering valuable experience on contemporary aircraft construction.

Additionally, Avion Express has been carrying out pilot roadshows all around Europe actively recruiting new flight crew members. It is an excellent opportunity for pilots to meet some of the staff of Avion Express and find out the details about the company. Since the beginning of 2018, around forty new pilots have joined the airline, including a couple of cadets. More than 40% of newcomers joined the company after the roadshows.

In the complex and ever-changing market that is aviation, Avion Express is working hard on its pilot recruitment, providing the potential flight crew with appropriate conditions, as well as opening the horizons for new pilots (i.e. cadets) and giving them opportunities to develop their career.

Avion Express is the largest narrow-body ACMI operator in the world and the largest airline in Lithuania successfully working with clients in Europe, Asia Pacific, South America, and the Caribbean region. In 2018 Avion Express will operate 15 Airbus A320 family aircraft.