A pilot shortage could have a negative impact on the fleet expansion and cost savings plans of the leading airlines. Qantas, its subsidiary Jetstar and Virgin Blue plan to bring in a large number of aircraft in the next few years, including long-haul aircraft to service new international routes.

However, they could face problems finding and training enough pilots to fly the aircraft. "It is becoming increasingly difficult to find pilots and more difficult to train up a lot of pilots quickly," the general manager of the Australian and International Pilots Association, Peter Somerville, says. Somerville estimates Jetstar has had to pay some of the pilots it has recently employed for its new international services up to 20 per cent more than those the airline already employs.

Jetstar chief executive Alan Joyce says the company has not had problems finding pilots. High pilot wages could mean low-cost operator Tiger Airways will have problems containing costs when it enters the Australian domestic market later this year.

Business Review Weekly, 15 Mar 2007