There's so many good commercial aviation blogs out there - mostly from the States and Canada. But none that I can see from this little island in Northern Europe. With the demise of a great blog by a BA Skipper that many I am sure followed (including me), I've decided to take on the challenge!

I hope you enjoy the commentary on all matters of civil aviation from my vantage point in the left hand seat of Virgin Atlantic's Airbuses!

Friday, October 1, 2010

What is it really like flying for Virgin?

Like every other airline in the world during the recent turbulent times, Virgin  did not escape the downturn and flight deck had to take some of the brunt of it too - with redundancy packages, guys taking reduced hours, demotions for skippers and some financial concessions too.

It did get a bit frantic where flight deck voted to take industrial action due to management not honouring an agreement on the days off we had been offered - and it was all down to an HR department who were framkly just flexing their muscles and being inept. That's why we stood up to them - because in the end enough is enough. 

For once, BALPA earned their union dues - sort of (!) and we're out the other end, generally smiling.

Some say Virgin is going to be squeezed, but we've got a good route network, good loads and I believe we're going to be ok. New destinations coming along too where the A330-300's economics make sense.

We've got Airbus A330-300s coming next year (thanks to Boeing not delivering 787s) and we might just buck the trend and go A350 - as the rumour mill is saying very sweet deals to take the A330s back and of course, the big plans are for the A380 coming on stream with very innovative new cabins.

We've lost some skippers to the low-cost carriers. The pay is about the same - roughly  £92,500 a year in my case, but for those with young families being home is much better for them. I have one teenage daughter - almost 16 - and when she was younger, the time spent down-route was a problem at times - but we coped - and I am still sporting the Virgin wings on my jacket with my seniority pretty much intact.

There's also a fair amount of positioning down route, and of course, that impacts lifestyle as well - but you take your choices and you go with it. I'm not a BA kind of guy - a bit too stuffy for me (which is an interesting admission given I was with the Royal Air Force  for 12 years), and I love the long hauls - so in terms of UK aviation Virgin Atlantic is about as perfect a fit as you can get for me anyway.

Virgin is also in the top 3 as far as salary is concerned - BA, Virgin and then Monarch.

And now - the thorny subject - time to command. You come at 25, and in the unlikely position of having the minimum requirements for being accepted, you'd get command probably somewhere between 10-14 years - that's my best guess. (It's quicker at BA these days and certainly quicker at Monarch).

I came to Virgin aged 31. I got my command in 8 years. That would never happen now. And if I was looking for a slot after my military service, I'd look to Ryanair or Easyjet - and maybe out in the Sandpit with the usual suspects of Qatar, Emirates and Ethihad.

I worry about the future for those who want to follow those of us lucky to be in the flight decks of the heavies. In North America after paying back just ludicirous training debt, flying for slave labour and then working your way up, sideways and sometimes knocked out of the seat, the dedication in following this path cannot be under-estimated. The issue is, given the career turbulence, why would anyone choose this path when they could be a lawyer or even a dentist instead?

And there lies the great conundrum of professional aviators. Why do we do it? And that will be broached soon on the Virgin Pilot!

1 comment:

Ignacio said...

Hi! I am 18 year old, planning to move to Europe and do my CPL there, having my PPL and some flight time done in Argentina. Yes, I do have the opportunity to be a lawyer or a dentist.. I also have a lot of doubts about the carreer I am stepping into.. Should I do it? What do you say?