First pilot job

Even with an ATPL and type rating in your pocket, finding a first job as a pilot is not an easy task. In today’s European aviation industry, not even a type rated pilot is necessarily considered suitable for employment. Very often airlines require at least 500 additional flight hours. Unfortunately, also type rated pilots in need of flying hours are seen as a business opportunity by some airlines and organisations. Such is the case for Pay-to-Fly schemes (pilots functioning as an employee of an airlines but receiving a very low salary or paying the airline).


Getting the first job is the hardest challenge for young pilots. The “pilot shortage”, happily advertised by flight schools and aviation experts, is in reality a convenient myth. In fact, unemployment amongst pilots is a significant phenomenon. The average unemployment rate for pilots across Europe is around 15%*.

And despite this, training schools continue to churn out pilots at high speed.

While demand by the airlines is relatively stable, in the past years, the large network airlines have reduced recruiting. Most job opportunities for pilots were provided by Low Cost Airlines.

Overview of pilot unemployment across Europe:

Country Total Pilots Unemployed Pilots Pilot Unemployment rate %
Switzerland 3582 98 2,7
Italy 3000 600 20
France 9165 1667 18
Germany 11500 2500 21
Netherlands 6000 1200 20
Iceland 976 0 0
UK (BALPA members) 9030 ( including 450 “trainees”) 542 6
Spain 3525 1000 28
Norway 1790 300 17
TOT (available data) 48568 7907 16,2%

Switzerland: official figures from national statistics office
Italy: official figures
France: SNPL
Germany: 2013 figures VC
Netherlands: VNV figures
Iceland: FIA figures
UK: BALPA detailed figures, based on membership information
Spain: SEPLA figures
Norway: official data sent from Norwegian CAA to EASA

* The figure is approximation.