The world’s super-rich could soon be forced to slum it on commercial planes due to a UK shortage of pilots for private jets, according to a leading aircraft seller.
Colibri Aircraft, which sells pre-owned private jets, warned that big-name airlines are turning their recruitment efforts to pilots in the private sector.
Pilots at the UK’s biggest airlines, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet and Ryanair, can earn up to £200,000 a year.
Between now and 2038 the UK will need to find around 2,500 pilots for private jets or billionaire tycoons may find themselves grounded or made to traipse to check-in desks at traditional airports.
It also means that any jet owners strapped for cash could struggle to sell their planes to a new buyer, Colibri said.
Oliver Stone, managing director at Colibri, said: “The world needs some 98,000 new business aviation pilots between now and 2038 to meet growing demand.
“However, the business aviation sector is struggling to compete with airlines in recruiting pilots. This means commercial airlines are not only recruiting existing business aviation pilots, they are also getting the pick of newly qualified pilots.
“This issue is increasingly impacting the sale of some private jets, and we expect it to continue.”
Pilots on UK commercial airlines can earn huge salaries, with wages for British Airways captains starting at £75,000 according to the Balpa union.
The regularity of the work also makes it highly attractive, although recent strikes by pilots at British Airways and Ryanair – and potential strikes at Virgin Atlantic – have all left a dent in relations with management.
Owning a private jet can be a pricey business. After purchasing the plane – for around £5 million – the buyer must also pay for fuel, storage, airport fees and staff.
Alasdair Whyte, co-founder of Corporate Jet Investor, explained the changes.
He said: “In the past it used to be jet owners who had their pick of the pilots, putting them through a rigorous interview process. Now it’s starting to go the other way with pilots interviewing owners who have to convince them to fly their aircraft.
“As part of this process, some business aviation pilots are also commanding very attractive financial packages – in some cases up to $300,000.”