What is the issue?

Besides its technical expertise ECA monitors the developments of the air transport market in Europe with a particular focus on the consequences on labour. After the launch of the Air Transport Liberalisation in Europe and more particularly during the last decade, the structure of airlines and their strategy of expansion have changed over time. State owned companies have partially or completely been privatised. This has brought a deep change in the managerial decisions of the companies now obliged to make profits and become a profitable business. This process has had consequences on the pilots’ employment terms and conditions. Confronted with fierce competition, National carriers have worked towards reducing their operational costs and looking at economies of scales. Following this latest approach airlines have been seeking commercial partnerships and/or for creating big airlines through merger and acquisition.

At the same time the low cost airline model has been developed in Europe. The new airlines entering the market have taken advantage of the lack of flexibility with Network carriers. Their entry into the market has directly generated an intense competition within Europe and Network carriers have tried so far to adapt their short haul operation to these competitors.

The escalation in the need for companies to reduce their cost and require their pilots more flexibility has lead them to progressively hire the services of self employed pilots. Whereas this practice is useful to allow flexibility during high season, the abuse of it has serious consequences not only on the pilots’ terms and conditions but also on the safety of their operations.

How is ECA involved?

ECA has been particularly involved in supporting its associations during collective labour agreement negotiations and in denouncing bad practices from airlines.

ECA follows the debate at European level and meets regularly with its member associations to generate the debate and develop tools to face the change in the industry. As an example ECA had developed a toolbox with information and guidance on scope manuals, mergers, language proficiency etc. in addition to a number of Position Papers on topics that also have industrial and professional effects.

ECA has also promoted a close relationship with its members and proposed whenever it is necessary to support them as best possible. For more information on these initiatives you can check the 'about us' section and contact Sarah Kamer, ECA's Senior Transnational Airlines & Industrial Affairs Manager.

Why is the issue important to ECA?

This area is of utmost importance for ECA. Self-employed and contractor pilots have very limited interest in being part of a trade union (when they have the right to do so), sometime for fear of sanctions. If pilots can no longer be unionised they will also lose their ability to be part of national, European and International forums on aviation safety. Pilots’ contribution to the improvement of flight safety is a vital.

The priority for ECA is to ensure that like for any other employees, pilots’ fundamental social rights are preserved in their integrity. ECA will continue promoting best practices and develop tools to enable big and small pilot associations to preserve their members’ rights and to address the concerns of contractors abuse to politicians.

Who is responsible?
  • Executive Board Director: Patrick Arpino & Paul Reuter
  • Staff members: Sarah Kamer, Ignacio Plaza & Anastasiia Prychta
  • Working Group: Industrial (IND WG)
  • Chair: James Phillips (VC)
  • Vice-Chair: Markus Kallijarvi (FPA)