The Sunday Leader

Pilot Shortage At SriLankan Airlines

By Abdul H. Azeez

SriLankan Airlines is unable to recruit sufficient pilots to fill growing demand.  A spurt of growth in the airline industry is projected to create a shortage of pilots in the near future. The growth is triggered by a positive outlook for business mostly in the Middle East and Far East.

SriLankan Airlines too is dealing with an increase in traffic, according to its CEO Manoj Gunawardene. Capacity has increased by 17-18% and more growth is expected with fresh routes opening up to India, Shanghai and Italy. Increases in flights to Europe will drive this further as winter approaches and tourist arrivals increase. According to Gunawardene, SriLankan needs to recruit 20-30 new airline pilots to fill this demand and plans to do so over the next few months and efforts are already underway.

Mediocre efforts

But an official at the Airline Pilots’ Guild of Sri Lanka, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that SriLankan Airline’s efforts at filling urgent requirements for new pilots were at best, mediocre.
‘SriLankan is in urgent need of experienced pilots but they are unwilling to pay the necessary remuneration to attract good staff. Only expatriate pilots are available but the salaries offered by SriLankan have only attracted a few pilots over the age of 60 so far. Airline regulations dictate that we cannot have two pilots over the age of 60 in a cockpit at the same time’.
The acute shortage of staff has resulted in existing pilots being stretched to the limit. The official said that there is an urgent need for the airline to start offering more competitive remuneration packages to lure in the much needed experienced pilots. He says that the airline has resorted to spending large sums of money to lease planes complete with pilots to compensate.
He stressed on the need for SriLankan to adopt more savvy marketing and management strategies in order to plan for future needs appropriately. ‘There is a real need to use proper forecasts and studies in formulating our management decisions’.

Attrition of pilots

To add to this, there is a steady stream of pilots leaving SriLankan in search of greener pastures. ‘Many of our first officers have been attracted away by Middle Eastern airlines that offer them better remuneration and facilities as well as opportunities to fly the latest planes. Our training capacity cannot accommodate more than eight cadets at a time, and it takes almost nine years for them to become captains. So losing our officers creates serious gaps in our staffing,’ the official said.
However Gunawardene said, ‘It is true that in the past it was harder for us to hold on to pilots due to the volatile situation of the country, but now it is much easier. Pilots look for the overall package when selecting employers, and currently our remuneration packages are competitive enough to enable us to retain our staff. But if competitors offer better salaries, then there is a possibility that we may lose some pilots.’
He went on to say that an added incentive is provided for pilots in terms of a reduced income tax bracket courtesy the government of Sri Lanka.

Global shortage

Middle Eastern giant Emirates made a recent announcement that they will need 700 new pilots. The Airbus website reports that the carrier has ordered a whopping 90 of its new Airbus A380 airplanes. Airbus also says that total aircraft deliveries for this year have reached 250. The Boeing website indicates that up to 170 orders for aircraft have been received by the company so far. Air China, Virgin Blue Airlines, United Airlines and Turkish Airlines are other leading buyers looking to expand.
Demand for pilots is triggered primarily by two factors; acquisition of new airplanes for expansion and the retirement of existing pilots. A new airplane will roughly require 15-20 pilots to effectively service it.
Leading airlines usually rely on attracting staff from other established airlines to fill shortages. This will mean a battle between carriers for the best pilots. This leads to questions as to whether SriLankan Airlines will face problems when it comes to holding on to their pilots.

23 Comments for “Pilot Shortage At SriLankan Airlines”

  1. Amarapala

    CEO says that Sri Lankan is expanding as there is a demand. He further states that there is shortage of staff (Pilots) BUT on books Sri Lankan had a lost of billions of rupees. Mihin Air is loosing money too. Sri Lanka is a small country. Do we need two airlines. Why not have one instead of two. if Sri Lankan can run without any political clout.

    • Dr Ransith Gunawardena

      This is as two bothers run aviation in Sri Lanka. even H.E’s brother in law has no say as we hear.

  2. LEONARD

    Now the Sri Lankan Airlines is totally own by Sri Lankans I am sure all patriotic Sri Lankan pilots working for foreign air lines will be beating down the doors come and work for Sri Lankan Airlines.

    • Dr Ransith Gunawardena

      They all love to come, but not under two brothers who prevent them from coming..

  3. captain milinda ratnayake

    hey leonard, you must be joking.!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    do not start the patriotic line thats is all B…S….
    a professional like myself need to be compensated financially, patriots are dead , now the theme is money talks and B..S… walks.

    how can UL compete with airlines like emirate,etihad, singapore airline etc

    as long as jokers are running the national airline pilots and other aviation professionals will keep running away.
    aviation in sri lanka needs a complete revamp as all fundamental elements have been destroyed as a result of incompetent personal advice to the president and largely due to the sri lanka air force which had done most of the damage restricting flight training and domestic flights now even their pilots have no jobs and they are certainly poorly trained to join big carriers in the region.

    over to you………….

    • Hello skipper,

      Russian / Croatian / Serbian pilots are available for peanuts !!
      GOSL must try them out as well..EK / EY does…!!

    • hello sir,
      pls help me sir.I’m willing to be a pilot.next year I hope to go to Canada to do CPL in Seneca college Toronto. could u pls tell me what should I do to become a Airline pilot..& can u pls tell me about basic salary of commercial pilot, what r the benefits & ect…
      pls reply me to my emai,,thank You!

  4. chooti baba

    Watch out for the next financial drain by the Brothers Inc…they are bringing down a simulator from an unknown entity in the the SIM world… all signed and sealed to make mega bucks on commission…like Capt Mila says money talks BS walks…literally.
    People are fooled by the new uniforms and outward appearance of SLA as usual. Poor Nishantha Wicks being a planter by profession is absolutely clueless about the inner workings of aviation thus allows the big brother “bullet head” and da younger bro “butt head” to run the aviation show

  5. JOBBA

    CANNOT THE GOVT RELEASE A FEW SLAF COMPETENT PILOTS WHO HOLDS PRIVATE PILOTS LICENCE TO OVERCOME THIS PROBLEM ?

    JOBBA

  6. chooti baba

    Jobba..the ones who are released have joined Mihin

  7. Appoint private bus drivers as SLA Pilots. Those who are on Galle Rd are the most suitable.

  8. The new SLA Uniform is pathetic. It’s good for kaju kellanta. Good for the beach too. The colour does not suit for an aviation crew. Where are the slim, beautiful, clear skinned, posh looking girls we got to see when it was Air Lanka? The new crew must be from Kaju Gama.

  9. Iranjan Carson Gajasinghe Jr.

    Well pilots shortage is coming day by day this is not a new issue in the aviation industry for the past one and half decades. Demand is big supply is slow and this is not a new issue.

    The question is do we keep Pilots happy without losing them in an organization:
    Direct Operating Cost: such as Aircraft Lease Rentals, Maintenance Reserves, Line Maintenance and Spare parts, Insurance, Fuel prices, Navigation & En-route charges, Aircraft handling, Landing and Parking, Training and Material, Standard Catering and Passenger Tax is same to all airline operators around the world. It could be minus 5% – 8% difference when you are at home base.

    How do we pay standard salaries to Pilots & Engineers according to international standard and keep the flight safety according to market demands? The only solution we all as “Different Management Levels” in the aviation industry are aware that there is no way to reduce cost in Direct Operating Cost is concern in an Airline company.

    But to make it viable, to reduce Indirect Operating Cost in the company such as minimise the staff to aircraft fleet accordingly and reduce other overhead cost and select revenue routes where 70% payloads in average (W/S Seasons) so that seat price is kept less than 27USD to 29USD per seat average for block hour accordingly. This will allow sufficient space and margins to pay all standard salaries to Tech. Crews and other required post holders and keep airline growing and avoid red figures in the balance sheet accordingly.

    Best regards,
    AJ Carson Gajasinghe Jr.

  10. Appu

    What joke. So many pilots who trained with thier hard earned parents money cannot get into Sri Lankan due to rampant corruption in hiring and they now cannot find experienced pilots. If you stupid morons bother to look one inch beyond you stupid noses you would never run short of pilots get a clue.

  11. Iranjan Carson Gajasinghe Jr.

    Well pilots shortage is coming day by day this is not a new issue in the aviation industry for the past one and half decades. Demand is big supply is slow and this is not a new issue.

    The question is how do we keep Pilots happy without losing them in an organization:
    Direct Operating Cost: such as Aircraft Lease Rentals, Maintenance Reserves, Line Maintenance and Spare parts, Insurance, Fuel prices, Navigation & En-route charges, Aircraft handling, Landing and Parking, Training and Material, Standard Catering and Passenger Tax is same to all airline operators around the world. It could be minus 5% – 8% difference when you are at home base.

    How do we pay standard salaries to Pilots & Engineers according to international standard and keep the flight safety according to market demands? The only solution we all as “Different Management Levels” in the aviation industry are aware that there is no way to reduce cost in Direct Operating Cost is concern in an Airline company.

    But to make it viable, to reduce Indirect Operating Cost in the company such as minimise the staff to aircraft fleet accordingly and reduce other overhead cost and select revenue routes where 70% payloads in average (W/S Seasons) so that seat price is kept less than 27USD to 29USD per seat average for block hour accordingly. This will allow sufficient space and margins to pay all standard salaries to Tech. Crews and other required post holders and keep airline growing and avoid red figures in the balance sheet accordingly.

    Best regards,
    AJ Carson Gajasinghe Jr.

  12. AJ Carson Gajasinghe Jr.

    Well pilots shortage is coming day by day this is not a new issue in the aviation industry for the past one and half decades. Demand is big supply is slow and this is not a new issue.

    The question is how do we keep Pilots happy without losing them in an organization:
    Direct Operating Cost: such as Aircraft Lease Rentals, Maintenance Reserves, Line Maintenance and Spare parts, Insurance, Fuel prices, Navigation & En-route charges, Aircraft handling, Landing and Parking, Training and Material, Standard Catering and Passenger Tax is same to all airline operators around the world. It could be minus 5% – 8% difference when you are at home base.

    How do we pay standard salaries to Pilots & Engineers according to international standard and keep the flight safety according to market demands? The only solution we all as “Different Management Levels” in the aviation industry are aware that there is no way to reduce cost in Direct Operating Cost is concern in an Airline company.

    But to make it viable, to reduce Indirect Operating Cost in the company such as minimise the staff to aircraft fleet accordingly and reduce other overhead cost and select revenue routes where 70% payloads in average (W/S Seasons) so that seat price is kept less than 27USD to 29USD per seat average for block hour accordingly. This will allow sufficient space and margins to pay all standard salaries to Tech. Crews and other required post holders and keep airline growing and avoid red figures in the balance sheet accordingly.

    Best regards,
    AJ Carson Gajasinghe Jr.

  13. Sadly, Sri Lankan aviation is going down the wrong path. From training standards to recruiting its all one big sham. If Sri Lanka needs new pilots then we need to think long term. Start with having proper training schools with proper standards, equipment, instructors and relevant infrastructure etc…at least that would allow more youth to fly, thus giving sri lanka a healthy general aviation platform. Also there has only been talk about open skies policies to wamp up aviation in sri lanka, but sadly not implemented. Air Force has too many restrictions as well.Sad state of affairs at the moment, but lets hope for a brighter future….cheers

  14. Dp

    Dear redears , please dont carried away with the Shortage of Pilots. This shortage has been there since 2002 and this shortage is only for Expereinced Pilots.,When ever there is a shortage id doesnt mean that an unemployed pilots with a CPl and 250 could get in and fly that Big plane.ITs gonna cost tha Airline USD 45,000 50,000 to train him on and employ.,So there is no shortage as such.Shortage is only there of the you have around Total flight time 2500 on havy Jets.Mind you most of the planes are leased, so the Insurance companies also dictate terms to employ the crew with expereince.Every intake there are close to 90-100 CPL holders apply to jon sri lankan airlines. but with due to high politics, people with low hrs, no expsoure are concidered and senior instructors are left out .I hve personaly seen less qualified young irresponsible cadets join Sri lankan …. end of the day they are Lucky.

  15. Luckyland

    As far as I know there are close to 6-75 unemployed pilots with valid Commercial Pilot License in the country.Day by Day this number goes up where more and more people come down with Licenses from USa, UK, Australia, so it will be a big thret for the old guys floating with the license witbhout jobs.

    Look at the options for Commercial Pilots in Sri Lanka.

    1/ Sri Lankan Airlines

    2/ Mihin Lanka

    3/ Domestic aviation

    So lets take Sri lankan Airlines, Every year they take a bacth of Cadets, but they never review the expereince of Cadets ( CPL holders with mroe hours or ATPL ) but what they do is put everybody in the same level and conduct a Theory Exam and a Flight test.Always close to 50-6- Pilots under the age of 35 apply for this position ( Please verify from Sri Lankan Airlines HR ) and they take 8 under dubious circusmtances.Its all about Luck and Luck and whome you know.Some Cadets with more advance ratings like ATPL, Turbine rating and more flying hours are not qualfied but a guy with 250 flying hrs with the basic rating without no work expereince and No Higher Academic Qualfications get in may be his first attempt.Remeber more and more people join the industry every year and they all want to get in so they infleunce who ever is possible. So if these 8 places are taken there will be close to 60 odd pilots have to wait for another 8-9 months.

    Remeber Piltos are taken in to an airline when the fleets expanding, networks expanding, retirement, and piltos leaving the Airline,If not then Airlines dont want to call for more Pilots,It takes Sri Lankan Airlines 1 year to train an Airbus First officer and cost them Rs 60 -70 Lakhs. So they need to take mroe pilots and train them or give prority for Pilots with Higher Ratings, Instructors ratings, more flying hours, More academic qualfications, and ATPl. these things will encourage young Pilots just after their Fresh CPL to work harder biuld more hours, and get matured and build up expereince and motivate them to get attracted by the Airline.This is what Other Airlines do in USA, Australia, UK. then the Pilots with some expereince and exposure are encouraged and they are taken it.

    Sri Lankan Airlines doesnt want to change this style of recruitment mainly due the fact that they want to get the knwn influential guys in the Cadet batch first time bypassing the exposed expereinced Cadets, this is a sad situation where Uncles, Dads, Auntys are encpouraged to take their loved once in first time with fresh CPL s and out of 8 slots always , always maximum 5-6 go for them and lukcy 2 will left for hardworking Cadets. Thats why we see Sons, Nephews, Nieces, and know once never do Instrucotrs rating, ATPL and any additional ratigs because they know they will be in first time.

    Since Last Year USA COngress wanted all there Pilots to have 1500 Hrs to apply for Commercial Airlines, so once the cadet is Graduated from a Flying School with 250 hrs, it will encourage them to spend more time in General Aviation to build Hours and work hard for the Airlines, not like this Stupid Technical Exam and Flight test of Sri Lankan Airlines. In UK and Australia people are encouraged to do ATOPL and Instructors rating both to aply for Charter Airlines and Commercials.

    Interms of Mihin, Well We salute them for training Locals.we have realised it gives oppertunity to Ex-Airforce and Civil Piltos with some exposure to the industry to have a crack at Commercial Airlines. But would have been nice if they bond the Pilots and reduce the training cost.

    But CAA should encourage more Domestic Airlines to start and give an oppertunity to Local Cadets and Pilots to get in to these Jobs,then we can really answer the Pilot Shortage.

    Mind You this shortage have been there since Post 2001, and this is only for rated expereinced Pilots with more than 2500 Turbine and Jet hours.

    In someparts of the world Cousins, Brothers nephews, Sons and daughters and Political Contacts taken in, but they still have to prove some experience like additional Experience,ATPL, more flying hours …..

  16. chandra

    in sri lanka pilot shortage….look in nepal we have sufficient pilot more than demand…if u need let us know we will come there……with cpl/IR

  17. The increase in demand for pilots at Sri Lankan Airlines hints at an increase in flight frequencies, which could only bode well for their progress. Seeing as they’ve got more passengers headed their way, surely it wouldn’t pain them to provide competitive salary packages to their pilots, in light of the consequences. If they go on the way they have before, it wouldn’t be a far-fetched to say that they just might continue to lose their pilots to other airline companies offering more attractive benefits.

  18. Udesh Wickramarathne

    Hello Sir,
    I just wanna follow PPL in Si Lanka. But still I don’t know what is the best academy to follow that courses in our country. can u tell me what is the best place? plz reply to my mail ? thank You..

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