Etihad offers seconded pilots chance of permanent contract

Pilots on temporary contracts with Etihad Airways will have the opportunity to become permanent employees as the Abu Dhabi carrier seeks to expand operations and leverage its partnerships with other airlines.

The fast-growing airline will nearly double its fleet over the next decade, offering seconded pilots from partner airlines the chance to fly the latest Airbus and Boeing aircraft, it said on Sunday. Etihad has 200 pilots on secondment from its partner airlines, equivalent to about 9 per cent of the 2,221 pilots on its books as of the end of last year.

The airline’s growth strategy is focused on expanding its global route network by forming code-share partnerships and equity partnerships, in which it takes stakes in carriers in strategically important regions. Its equity partners include airberlin, Alitalia, Virgin Australia, India’s Jet Airways and Air Seychelles.

Pilots from airberlin, Alitalia, Jet Airways, City Liner, Darwin Airline and Niki will be given the opportunity to fly Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380 aircraft, Etihad said on Sunday.

The carrier’s president and chief executive, James Hogan, said the initiative highlighted the success of its business model, which includes sharing resources with its equity partners.

“Our pilot secondment programme is such an exciting and unique opportunity for pilots across our group of partner airlines, many of whom have a wealth of experience and are passionate about flying,” Mr Hogan said.

Some of Etihad’s partner airlines, such as airberlin and Alitalia, have been undergoing restructurings, including reductions in headcount. To soften the job losses, Etihad began recruiting pilots to enter its secondment programme.

Under the scheme, pilots are trained for about five to seven months before taking a test to obtain a licence from the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority. Once the licence is acquired, pilots then fly with certified instructors for a minimum of three weeks.

There are 21 former airberlin pilots that have transferred to permanent roles with Etihad, flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380. Etihad plans to operate 70 787s and 9 A380s by 2025, according to the airline.

Pilots are given more opportunities for promotion within the company as a larger variety of aircraft allow for more versatility, Etihad said.

“I did not hesitate to join the airline on a permanent contract because of the future possibility to upgrade to captain,” said first officer Julian Kirrinnis, who joined Etihad two years ago from airberlin.

Etihad said that it usually takes about 10 to 15 years to achieve a command position in most legacy carriers, but the average for the Abu Dhabi company is approximately three years.

“We are able to put our pilots at the forefront of modern aviation, and look forward to welcoming many more to join our family,” said Mr Hogan.

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