NEWS last week, and on today’s front page, that Regional Express may have to cancel flights should a pilot call in sick at the last minute will no doubt have passengers questioning whether to fly with Rex at all.
In an open letter to the regional communities it services, Regional Express attributed its cancellations to the global pilot shortage and Qantas and Virgin Australia’s “rapacious plundering” of its pilot pool.
The airline claims to have been trying to resolve the problem by starting its state of the art pilot academy 10 years ago, while other airlines have done nothing.
But obviously other airlines are also struggling with Qantas announcing in February this year it would establish its own pilot academy capable of training up to 500 pilots a year, to help meet the increasing need for skilled aviators.
Qantas is saying it will initially train about 100 pilots a year for direct entry into the Qantas Group, including regional carrier, QantasLink and by the sounds of it that can only be a good thing.
It is interesting though that Regional Express has taken aim at other airlines, blaming them for their service disruptions when the shortage seems to be having an impact across the board.
It makes sense that smaller airlines would be struggling the most but if there has been a shortage issue for 10 years – as Regional Express claims in its letter – there must be other ways of holding onto pilots.
Perhaps a requirement for training at the Regional Express academy could be to stay on and give the airline a certain number of years of service.
The aviation industry is a complex one, so the solution to this shortage probably also falls into that basket but the shortage seems to be just the most recent in a number of issues Regional Express seems to have with the regional air service industry at the moment.
There seems to be no end to the blame game – the company told a senate inquiry into air services to rural, regional and remote communities that competition on routes with fewer than 100,000 passengers was having a negative impact on the industry and in Port Lincoln’s case increased the price of flights by 30 per cent.
Hopefully time and the plans other airlines have in place to meet their own shortages takes the pressure off Regional Express, and the region can continue to enjoy the level of service it has become used to.