FOREIGN pilots will be allowed into Australia on two-year visas to fix a growing shortage of local pilots that has already led to flight cancellations.
But industry groups have slammed the decision as a quick fix with big problems.
Qantas pilots have questioned the quality of pilots that will be coming in under the new visas, while warning about the increasing foreign ownership of Australian training schools.
Murray Butt, president of the Australian and International Pilots Association which represents more than 2000 Qantas pilots, told The Australian that the decision, signed off by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, was a stopgap that did not address the real issues behind the national pilot shortage.
“Bringing in foreign pilots is definitely a very short-term fix and, given the market, I’m not sure of the quality of the pilots they are going to get,” Mr Butt told the publication.
“I do foresee big problems going forward. The government is taking a very short-term view on this.”
Mr Butt also warned about foreign airlines buying up flight schools in Australia to train their pilots.
“That might fix their problem but it doesn’t fix ours,” he said.
But Australia’s peak body for regional airlines told the publication that foreign pilots were essential to fill the shortages, which had reportedly already led to the cancellation of some flights.
Regional Aviation Association of Australia chief executive Mike Higgins confirmed the group had successfully lobbied Mr Dutton to allow foreign pilots to be hired for up to two years.
‘Airline pilot’ would be included on a revised list of the skilled occupations allowed into Australia on Temporary Work Visas when it is published next month.
Qantas told The Australian pilot shortages had been one factor in recent flight cancellations in regional areas.
“We had a spike in flight cancellations in some regional markets during October and November … due to a mix of engineering and pilot issues,” spokesman Andrew McGinnes said.
“To stabilise things, we made some tweaks to a few parts of the network that saw us operate fewer flights but with larger aircraft so there was a minimal impact on actual capacity.
“We’re in the middle of training up about 600 of our pilots and that reduces the number we have in reserve, to bring in if someone calls in sick.”
Read more at: The Australian