BALPA is the professional association and registered trade union established to represent the interests of all UK pilots
Brian Strutton
General Secretary
For centuries humans reached for the sky. When the Wright brothers first slipped the bonds of earth with powered flight, a new age began.

It wasn’t long before people were exploring all corners of the planet for pleasure and connections had been made to enable global trade and business travel. And it has been a thriving industry. 

In 2018, a UK Government report stated that aviation is “at the heart of the United Kingdom’s economic success” and that it contributed “at least £22 billion to the UK economy, along with over 230,000 jobs.” Predictions were that aviation would continue to grow. 

Then came a crisis that shook the world and changed everything. Coronavirus arrived and turned the world upside down. From a world of global travel we have become a world in lockdown with people isolated in their homes and unable to travel even short distances, let alone take to the skies. Most flights are grounded and pilots are unsure of what the future brings. Airlines are fighting for survival and no one knows what the industry will look like when this crisis comes to an end. 

Part of BALPA’s role is to ensure the industry that emerges is stable, able to thrive once more and is there to help rebuild the broken nation. 

We are doing all we can to protect the health and safety of pilots who continue to fly during this time. We are in constant communication with airlines to argue for the correct PPE to be available to minimise the risk to pilots and their crews as they carry out vital repatriation flights and transport goods to support our efforts to beat coronavirus.

We are looking after our members who are grounded, by ensuring they have access to everything they need to stay healthy, pressing airlines to offer them the best terms and conditions during this difficult time and looking for creative ways to enable them to stay current, retain their skills and be ready for the call up when the crisis abates. 

Our top priority is to protect our members and to ensure they have a job to return to when this is over. We want to ensure every single airline survives this unprecedented time and is there to bolster Britain when the time comes. 

What the world will look like after coronavirus is uncertain. But I believe aviation will be vital in that new world. Vital for transporting goods, and to allow people from all over the world once again to meet, reunite and explore new places. It will be vital in helping build a new world order and in providing jobs, supplies and building our fractured economy. 

But we need help now. The Government must heed its own words… that aviation is “…at the heart of the United Kingdom’s economic success.”. It must recognize how difficult these current times are for the industry and how much airlines will be needed to aid the rebuilding of Britain after coronavirus. Needed to boost trade and to provide a nation of people who’ve been cooped up for months, the opportunity to travel, rekindle relationships with family and friends who live far away and allow people to explore and experience a world outside their own backyards. 

No doubt there will be changes to aviation in the weeks, months and years to come and the new aviation industry that emerges may be different to that which went into this crisis. We understand that decisions being made now are difficult and the situation is changing rapidly. But at BALPA we believe aviation can still be at the heart of the UK’s economic success.

Collaboration is key, and BALPA is working with the Government and airlines to ensure the aviation industry not only survives but can in time, rebuild and thrive again. We are asking for the Government to provide money now, to help airlines through this period of inactivity before skills and infrastructure are lost forever. Without such investment, links with the outside world could be irrevocably damaged, connectivity lost and we won’t be ready to meet demand when it inevitably comes. 

The time to act is now. The future of our pilots depends on it. 

Posted on 17 April 2020

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