Friday, 12 October 2007

White knuckled trainee pilots, tight-fisted airlines


On November 7, 2004, AirAsia Flight 104 had a runway accident, according to an AirAsia statement and reported by technical site here. The B737.Org article says the accident left two passengers and the two pilots with minor injuries. The technical website report continues: 'According to passengers, there were moments of pandemonium on the plane as they pushed and shoved each other towards the emergency exits during the evacuation.

We have looked high and low for any such press release and we suspect that
the sites journalists approached AirAsia directly. In fact, to the best of out knowledge, the accident was only covered by a solitary blogger in Malaysia. It is curious that none of the major Malaysian news services picked up on the incident. Can anyone suggest why?

From Wikipedia, referring to the American no-frills
airline Skybus - a carbon-copy of cut-price outfits such as One Two Go, Ryanair and Air Asia carriers.

"In order to keep wages in line with their projected low fares, flight attendants will only be paid $9 per flight hour, and will not be paid a per diem. While this is considerably lower than competing airlines' wages, flight attendants will also receive 10% of all sales made during the flight, splitting all commissions evenly among all flight attendants on-board. Starting pilot wages will also be well below average, starting at $65,000 annually. The average commercial airline pilot wage is approximately $135,000"

Remember, this figure is for the United States.

Arguably this is like comparing apples and a lemon. Notwithstanding we assume that pilots' salaries are considerably lower on all cut-price airlines and likely to be less in countries like Malaysia, no offense intended Malaysians, here's how Air Asia woo talent -

[Source: Air Asia's website, according to]

The Training Programme

Commercial Pilot Licence with a ‘Frozen’ ATPL

ONLY the training cost is sponsored by AirAsia. All other expenses such as accommodation and food plus all other miscellaneous expenditure will be borne by the cadets. All cadet pilots will repay the cost of training through monthly deductions over a period of fifteen (15) years commencing from the time they are employed by AirAsia and commence their line training as Second Officers. In addition to this the cadets will have to sign a training bond for the type-rating course on the Boeing 737 or the Airbus A320. In the event the cadet pilot is unsuccessful at any stage of the training the cadet is obliged to repay AirAsia all the training cost that had been expended up to the stage of termination plus any administrative costs. With the very fast pace of expansion of AirAsia there is abundant opportunity for all ambitious candidates who are willing to work hard.

Dato’ Tony Fernandes, Group Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Berhad said:

“We have always believed in investing in the future of our people and our training center, and will continue to produce pilots that contribute to Malaysia and the aviation industry."

Air Asia Press Release]

Sensing a bit of Tony-
Two-Phase creeping in? Would he also care for a pound of flesh and pilot's first-born child?

"A no-frills airline requires fewer staffers—Singapore Airlines flies nearly the same number of passengers but has four times as many employees—and Southeast Asia’s labor costs are low. Regulations are more lax too; a Ryanair pilot can only fly 900 hours a year under European Union law, but AirAsia’s crew can log 1,000." By Jeff Chu, October 17, 2007 -

Here's how myself and many others see it. It would take a pilot his or her lifetime to pay back a student loan - particularly on the reduced fares of the cut-price carriers such as Adam Air, Air Asia & Skybus. Personally, I'd also harbor a degree of resentment toward an employer/teacher that boasts such a draconian HRM policy as this, treating me like I was in a juvenile facility, wouldn't you? It stands to reason that these people who have our lives in their hands are simply in a holding pattern and waiting to land a decent salary with one of the major airlines - that will presumably also afford them more respect. Maybe they stay out of love.

Now, I don't want to cast dispersions on the already fraught cut-price pilots, however, it seems to me that the public have the right to know that they are in all probability going to get a rookie who is rather B-Team
vis a vis experience, when it comes to correcting that aircraft after it gets hit by headwinds like we see above. Interestingly, strong headwinds are widely considered to have been the cause of the recent One Two Go air disaster. In Adam Air's case, it has never been established what caused that crash. With the Air Asia incident, link below, by all accounts the story never even made it into Malaysian newspapers - with eye-witness testimonials and photographs only surfacing via private blogs. I'm unaware if it was investigated. Admittedly, some of the above is partly theory - as we don't have exact figures. I could be mistaken - I wouldn't bet my life on it.
Then, I wouldn't bet my life on anything.

Some thoughts in this post are paraphrased from the excellent and its entertaining contributors.

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