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Major opportunity to stop Pay-to-Fly!

Remember Pay-to-Fly (P2F) schemes where pilots pay the airline to operate on regular commercial flights with passengers onboard? These practices haven’t stopped. Instead, they have become the quasi-standard path for young pilots entering the profession. In addition to being highly abusive, P2F could also constitute a passenger safety risk. 

The good news is that there is a major opportunity to ban P2F in Europe: the EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions. It clarifies essential elements of employment contracts and establishes baseline rights for employees irrespective of whether they are atypically or directly employed. It aims to ensure uniform application of EU legislation and to reduce somewhat the possibilities of unfair labour competition and social dumping.

The EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions is a major opportunity to #StopP2F

The European Parliament (EP) introduced an important amendment that could ban P2F schemes. This amendment, which is in line with various EP Resolutions is currently being negotiated between the Council of Ministers, the Parliament and the Commission. It is a good opportunity for decision-makers to consider that the training required for the job in question and in order to carry out your job, should be provided to the worker cost-free. 

What is the problem with P2F?
  • P2F constitutes employee exploitation, that is, the act of using another person's labour without offering them an adequate compensation;
  • P2F contravenes Article 32 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU which states that “Young people admitted to work must have working conditions appropriate to their age and be protected against economic exploitation and any work likely to harm their safety, health or physical, mental, moral or social development or to interfere with their education”; 
  • P2F breaches the pilot’s right to fair remuneration and circumvents provisions on minimum wage; 
  •  Employers get double economic profit from a P2F scheme: free or very cheap labour force (i.e. pilot) and (often) part of the fees paid by their employee to training organisations with whom airlines have exclusivity contracts; 
  • P2F contracts revert the contractual relation between the pilot and the airline, the pilot becoming a client of the airline providing “a service.”
  • P2F pilots may constitute a safety concern (see Hermes accident report). The object of the contract between the P2F pilot and the client (the airline) is to “make a certain number of hours.” The pilot paying to fly is under (economic) pressure to “make” his/her hours and to do that irrespective of his/her fitness, the type of instructions received or the conditions under which he or she might be called to fly. As a result, the professional judgement of the pilot might be compromised. 
  • P2F is today among the biggest entry barriers to the profession. There is no pilot shortage, but there is a lack of investment of airlines in training ab initio pilots, combined with low pay and poor working conditions.
  •  Operators that train their own pilots have an unfair competitive disadvantage over the ones exploiting young pilots through P2F programmes. Exclusivity agreements between certain training organisations and airlines distort competition and privilege economic agreements over competency, restrict the choice of the pilots and increases the price of the training programme.

The European Parliament expressed its concerns about the use of P2F schemes in various resolutions in 2015, 2016 and 2017. In its resolution of 16 Sept 2016 the Parliament called on the Commission and the Member States to review rules on initial training and on the licensing of aircrew with a view to eliminating shortcomings leading to the exploitation of pilots, such as pay-to-fly contracts. In an Opinion to the EU Aviation Strategy (2016), the Employment Committee asked the Commission to come forward with legislative initiatives to prevent flags of convenience, ‘rule shopping’ and unfair competition, also with regard to zero-hour contracts and pay-to-fly schemes in European commercial aviation, in order to guarantee fair working and employment conditions. A similar call was made also in 2017 by the EP,  asking the Commission to regulate, where necessary, to ensure aviation safety, paying particular attention to P2F among other types of atypical employment.

The EP amendment to the EU Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions translates all these EP Resolutions into concrete legislation.

Now is the time to act! #StopP2F