Turkish pilots are struggling to find domestic work due to the decrease in flight traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, many Turkish pilots are seeking jobs abroad, where they can fly more and receive salaries 4-5 higher than what they would receive in Turkey.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent decrease in travel, airlines in Turkey and around the world have had to cut down on flights. Some airlines have had to close altogether. At its worst, in April 2020, flights in Turkey were down almost 90% from 2019. Thousands of pilots, with planes grounded, were left without work for months during the pandemic. Now, as lockdowns have eased, people have started traveling again but not yet at pre-pandemic levels - flights are still down over 10% from 2019.
According to Murat Ersoy, President of the Turkish Airline Pilots Association (TALPA), some pilots have taken a 50% pay cut, while others have been forced to work part-time or be paid only for the hours they fly. As a result, Turkish pilots have begun to flee the country, looking for higher-paying work elsewhere.
Airlines like FlyDubai, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have received many applications from Turkish pilots. According to officials at the company, they were surprised by the inflow. However, with salaries in the Middle East 4-5 higher than those in Turkey, it’s no surprise that Turkish pilots are leaving.
Ersoy, President of TALPA, says these departures are very bad for the airline industry in Turkey. As the airline industry continues to improve, it is inevitable that Turkey will soon have a need for more pilots.
“Salaries abroad are offered to pilots in dollars and under very good conditions […] It is bad for qualified personnel to go to another country,” Ersoy said. “It’s a terrible situation. It is not easy to train a pilot. Having expert pilots, pilots who have spent years in the profession, go abroad is a great loss.”