We recently interviewed 384 aviation professionals about their thoughts surrounding Covid-19’s effect on the aviation industry right now.
This included their thoughts on how they felt the situation has been handled so far by the government, how they envisaged the future and how they felt their current or previous employer has handled the pandemic in relation to their own career.
We were inundated with many passionate responses surrounding this matter and we have selected a broad range to demonstrate the overall feeling coming from the people whose livelihoods have been directly affected by the pandemic.
Some of these are very personal and distressing stories which shine a light on the gravity of the situation and the hardship they are currently facing.
- 48% are unemployed
- 32% are employed
- 11% are furloughed / part furloughed
- 9% were categorised as something else
- 89% are worried about their future in aviation
- 86% believe the UK government could be doing more to help the aviation industry get back on its feet.
- 44% would consider reskilling in order to take another job
- 33% would potentially consider reskilling in order to take another job
- 19% would not consider reskilling in order to take another job
- 4% said it did not apply to them
How do you feel the UK government has handled the pandemic overall so far?
We started by asking the professionals how they felt the UK government has handled the pandemic so far.
- 26% believe the pandemic has been handled very badly
- 17% believe the pandemic has been handled badly
- 31% were indifferent in how they felt
- 10% believe the pandemic has been handled well
- Only 4% believe the pandemic has been handled very well
- 12% made no comment
We went on to ask the professionals to elaborate on why they felt the UK government has handled the pandemic so badly. This is what they said:
“They allowed the aviation industry to be decimated. Boris Johnson has BLOOD on his hands.”
“I have applied for more than 50 jobs and nothing. I am a Licensed Engineer on Boeing/Airbus. The authorities reckon it will be 2024 before some sort of return in which I will be too old and no longer have recent experience. My career income has gone completely, my life is nil ,nothing ,worthless. I can’t really tell you how I feel, someone somewhere has ruined my life completely.”
“I lost the job I loved due to the pandemic. I´ll never find a job that fits me so well. Unfortunately, I am aware that the aeronautical industry will take a long time to recover its previous activity and rehire its employees. It is also very difficult to predict if one day I will be able to return to my old position. Although I try every day, the uncertainty is immense.”
“Feels like stuck with no money to survive and nobody cares.”
“Arrogant behaviour from Boris Johnson.”
“No-one expects the government to get it 100% right, but they should have got more than 5% right.”
“They’ve protected health but destroyed livelihoods which in my opinion, for my age group with a family to support, has had a far greater effect on my well being than Covid possibly could.”
“Thousands of jobs lost, and thousands more will be lost as the industry supports so many other industries. The knock-on effects will not be realised for a long time and then it’ll be too late. Rather than paying taxes in a highly skilled job I will be claiming jobseekers for the foreseeable future.”
“Being a self employed/consultant Aircraft Technical Instructor, I have had no income coming in in 9 months!”
“They have dismantled my industry and probably have effectively ended my career.”
“Missed opportunities. They’re saying they are being led by science but the reality says otherwise.”
“I didn’t vote for so called expert scientists to run the country.”
“It has been a case of shooting sparrows with cannonballs!”
“People want to fly but the government has imposed restrictions on aviation. I take the bus everyday and it is much more dangerous. But the buses are still running right?”
“The government is lacking behind with everything. Sick and tired. Will the PM pay my wage if I get laid off?”
“Constant changing of restrictions, unclear rules, not enough testing. Aviation brings a vast amount of money into this country but seems to have been left to fend for itself whilst other industries have been given government money.”
“Because it is all based on lies, half truths, illegal actions, faulty testing, faulty logic and nonsensical decision making. Perhaps there is a more sinister agenda at work.”
“They just don’t seem to be listening to expert advice. Very incompetent behaviour from Westminster. They are failing to support businesses and the economy.”
“Many contractors lost their jobs, permanent or temporary. The future is dark in aviation.”
“I was furloughed for three months and now made redundant due to lack of support for the airline industry.”
“In May, we were promised sector specific help which has not materialised. You compare us to what Germany, France and Italy have offered with their schemes and we are going to get left behind. The new skills training will give them the edge in the future.”
“Lack of foresight regarding knock on effect for other illnesses and decimation of global supply chains to aviation, tourism and travel.”
“As soon as the virus was announced in China, all flights should have been banned from China immediately.”
“Been good in response with furlough scheme and payments but not helped enough job retention at end of it.”
“As long as the government is receiving their great big fat salary and fat bonuses, they don’t care at all. The country is run by idiots all wanting fame. I have been made redundant and am having to sell my house to survive after the end of this month. I have been with the company just under 2 years so I won’t get a penny.”
“You can not save a sinking ship by burning it up.”
“I have had no help as I was made redundant in March and being self-employed for a month has resulted in me now ending up in severe financial difficulties. I am currently ineligible for any grants and have received no financial support from either the Government or previous employers.”
“The lockdown was meant to slow down the spread of the disease so they could prepare the health services. We all complied and made a lot of sacrifices. Now it seems they wasted all that extra time we bought. Now the ‘cure’ seems to be worse than the disease!”
“Dithering about decisions and then implementing those divisions too late, a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has already bolted.”
“Because this is a HUGELY over sensationalised pack of media garbage and it’s totally destroyed my career and my life! I doubt very much that I will ever fly again because of this.”
While the majority believe the pandemic has been handled poorly, 14% of respondents believe the UK government has handled the pandemic well so far and this is a selection of the responses as to why:
“Furlough has helped keep jobs going.”
“It’s an unprecedented situation. No one has all the answers at their fingertips from the start. The government has done all they can and reacted well to this evolving situation. Management at some airlines have been working on this cull for a long time, the pandemic has provided a perfect cover.”
“All countries are hit hard and the furlough scheme has helped.”
“I was furloughed for several months before being made redundant, so I can’t complain too much.”
“Not sure any government could get control of this virus.”
“They’ve been criticised but they’re juggling between dealing with COVID-19 and keeping the economy going. I think that they’ve done better than a lot of other countries.”
“They did most of what was required to keep the people of the country safe. The government’s job is not to protect my career, it is to protect the electorate from harm. I fully understand locking down the country and if businesses go bankrupt, so be it. Better than dying.”
“There is no ‘right’ way to handle the pandemic, it’s constantly evolving so the response has to evolve too.”
“In hindsight things could have been handled better, but it’s something no one has had to deal with before.”
“I feel the government did what had to be done.”
“As this has not happened in modern times, it’s hard to predict what the best thing is to actually do. A no win situation.”
What do you think needs to happen for the aviation industry to return to ‘normal?’
There have been multiple media and think tank reports detailing the ‘bounce back’ of aviation, including how and when it will happen, but we wanted to hear from the people that work directly within the industry.
We asked them what they believed needed to happen for the industry to return to pre-pandemic levels. This is just a selection of the responses.
“Support airlines and staff, but mainly sacked staff to maintain currency. Ultimately pay their mortgage so they don’t consider jumping off the local bridges due to watching their career, livelihood, finances, health, ratings, credit, marriage, kids future, private education and hobbies go down the sh***er.”
“We need to keep going, otherwise the country is heading for a massive economic mess. Londoners went to work during the bombing in WW2. A nanny state will crush us all.”
“Let the people fly. Getting sick from ‘Stephen’ is okay but getting sick from ‘Manuel’ is a big no-no. Traveling on public transport in masks is not safer by any means than sitting on an airplane in masks.”
“The media made the people so scared, people are scared to travel but I think the problem will resolve by itself, people will start to forget about the disease over time and travel again.”
“A vaccine or a cure must be implemented to give faith in passengers to travel in airplanes”
“International borders opened. Precautions kept high but restrictions lowered.”
“Testing in airports and removal of quarantine once test results are received – allowing people free movement.”
“It should introduce a priority system to help at risk industries. Some industries are doing well but are still claiming against the government because they can.”
“Quarantine only for people who have tested positive.”
“Advanced technology to fight the pandemic.”
“Financial support and no taxes applied on this industry.”
“All passengers should be scanned on all flights.”
“Rapid Covid testing. No lockdown. Remove mandatory quarantine measures.”
“I don’t think it can or should. We are in an era of supply and demand. If the demand means we have no use then so be it.”
“Put better air conditioning filters and procedures into place that will help people stay physically safe.”
“More support and extend furlough!!”
“People need to NOT be afraid anymore.”
“Less random closing of borders on short notice. A European joint plan for quarantine, testing for passengers to streamline things to make it more predictable for long term planning.”
“They need to give proper support to furloughed or self-employed Pilots and Engineers because if not, there won’t be anyone to work when things resume.”
How do you feel your current / previous employer has handled the pandemic in relation to their employees?
Our final question was to ask the professionals how they felt their current / previous employer has handled the pandemic in relation to their employees. We were pleased to see that 56% expressed it was between average and very good.
- 25% said very bad
- 14% said bad
- 28% said average
- 17% said good
- 11% said very good
- 5% made no comment
Since March, there has been a lot of media reports surrounding aviation employers and their employees, the majority being negative.
However, there are many employees who believe their employers have handled the pandemic well, yet these rarely make headline news. We are keen to put a spotlight on the good work and efforts taken by many employers within the industry.
These are a selection of the positive stories and comments we received:
“My airline has taken a realistic and responsible attitude to the crisis and treated both its employees and its customers with the utmost respect.”
“Businesses have to do things sometimes ultimately to save the business, in this case it has meant job cuts, resulting in mass unemployment. While it is necessary, it is highly undesirable and nobody likes it.”
“Is not an easy situation. This pandemic is terrible for everyone and I am sure in each position it’s difficult to make decisions.”
“Stayed calm and continued.”
“Well I still have a job for the moment and the atmosphere in the company is good.”
“They were very clear with directives and rules.”
“A lot of communications from the management about the safety measures.”
“They could have laid me off, but instead reduced my monthly salary. Can’t complain too much.”
“Company had no choice but to shut down temporarily due to strict quarantine measures on arrival.”
“They have kept everyone informed of the situation within the company & done what they’ve needed to do to survive for now.”
“No one on this planet knew how to handle a disruption of such magnitude.”
“They are doing everything possible to keep our jobs. They are trying to keep us flying.”
“All employees were tested and those who tested positive were isolated from the work place. The company provided protective equipment, sanitisers to employees and disinfected the whole company premises.”
“They have given us ninety percent of wages and also now allowing us work part time, ensuring we still get some work and keep current.”
“My airline has treated us excellently.”
“Cared about us but they ultimately acted according to government rules.”
“I fly cargo and cargo is doing fine. My company just kept flying.”
“It was handled as best they could, the situation was well out of their control.”
“Took immediate action. Kept employees well informed.”
However, the dark side of Covid-19 has resulted in many facing uncertainty about their future careers. From the 39% who believed their current / previous employer has handled the pandemic poorly, this is just a selection of the reasons as to why they feel that way.
“I feel let down by my trade union, and by the company I worked for, they didn’t explore all options before making hundreds of us redundant.”
“I will not elaborate since it was done in an execution style. Some airline managers must take courses on handling people beside protecting their own agenda.”
“Systematic firing of almost all employees even when furlough could have been received.”
“A lot of young highly skilled people have been told that they are now longer required.”
“I have been furloughed until the end of October and they have not said what is happening for winter.”
“The seniority list wasn’t used in the layoffs. After being made redundant, I had a 3 months notice period and needed to leave the country where I have spent 17 years of my life. No social benefits, nor assistance offered in either the country where I worked for 17 years or in my country of origin.”
“Pay stopped, no notice, no redundancy.”
“They have sacked us all and destroyed our lives!”
“Because they decided to fire us although we were on furlough.”
“They made 12 engineers redundant and due to reduced manning, have put intolerable strain on the remaining engineers.”
“Little communication and playing favourites with the staff.”
“Management can always help their employees better handle the situation if they were not so greedy.”
“6 months with no pay, but no retrenchment so we cannot access our pension funds for financial assistance.”
“They have taken advantage of employees, then made many redundant.”
“No communication. No involving staff. No nothing.”
“They threw out the newly trained first, like garbage.”
“It’s very rare in aviation that companies consider their staff as an asset and dispose and rehire at the slightest downturn, let alone a global pandemic. We have seen it in the past with aviation slumps during recessions and post 9/11.”
“First they asked us to stay in positions in various overseas bases. And one week later, they sent us termination letters with immediate effect.”
While there have been a lot of opinions expressed within this article, some you may agree with, some you may not, but we believe it is important to give a voice to the people who are directly being affected by the pandemic and the subsequent rules surrounding it.
We believe this article represents a true reflection of the mood within the industry right now, whether that be positive or negative.
A Message from the Aviation Job Search Team
To all the aviation professionals interviewed, we’d like to thank you for your stories and frank opinions. Reading your very personal stories was extremely difficult and we sincerely hope change is around the corner to alleviate the troubles you are currently facing.
While things are difficult at the moment, there are still career opportunities out there, many which are published daily on Aviation Job Search.
Our sister site, Aviation Courses also holds many different courses and training programmes which can help you to keep your skills and knowledge up to date during this period.
We wish you all the best.
The statistics and opinions in this article are based on an Aviation Job Search survey of 384 aviation professionals from October 2020.
Please note that the views expressed in this article reflect those of the individuals interviewed entirely. They do not reflect the views of the Aviation Job Search or any of its team.