Wendy Pursey
Head of Membership and Career Services
In basic terms the British Airline Pilots’ Association is the professional association and registered trade union established to represent the interests of all UK pilots. But what does that mean? It is far more than you might think. So, as members of trade unions from around the country meet at the TUC conference we are outlining what BALPA is and what it does for you, our members. 

1. Giving pilots a voice

BALPA is a community, a family of pilots working together to protect the profession and ensure every flight is a safe flight. In fact, BALPA has recognition in 24 airlines and represents more than 10,000 pilots; that’s over 85% of all commercial pilots flying in the UK. 

And there is strength in numbers. BALPA uses its collective voice to influence airlines, the regulator and those in the corridors of power. Our experienced negotiators help our members to fight to improve salaries and overall terms and conditions including rostering, leave, illness, relocation and pensions. 

At the same time our staff and reps regularly give briefings to politicians to push for changes to laws and meet with authorities across the aviation industry to drive standards up and protect the piloting profession.  

2. Campaigning on flight safety issues

Pilots always have safety as their number one priority and BALPA is constantly working to ensure every flight is a safe flight. As an organisation of highly-trained flight deck professionals, BALPA has unrivalled access to the expertise and experience of our 10,000 members. Many pilots form specialist study groups or committees to support our professional and technical services. These groups represent a body of knowledge that push for best practice in areas including security, accident prevention, aviation medicine, occupational health, remotely piloted Aircraft and much more. This work is supported by BALPA’s Flight Safety team of professional specialists and we have been very successful in bringing about real change in the aviation industry. 
For example, our members told us that fatigue is the biggest threat to flight safety, so BALPA launched its ‘Focus on Fatigue’ campaign. BALPA’s Human Factors Scientist, Biomathematical Modeller and scheduling experts have been helping to keep this issue on the agenda of pilots, the public, airlines regulators and the Government. 

And just this summer we have also seen new laws on drones on lasers… the result of years of BALPA research and campaigning on the subjects. 

3. Helping when things go wrong

From time to time things can and do go wrong, even in the best planned career. But what is important is to know who to call for help in an emergency. For our members the answer is BALPA. 

We answer calls to our emergency helpline and ensure pilots get the help they need, in an uncertain world it provides peace of mind. 

4. Taking up legal battles

BALPA isn’t afraid to fight for pilots’ rights in court and the good news is that every full member of BALPA has access to our legal help. In the last year, BALPA spent more than £700,000 in legal fees defending the rights of individual members, taking on airlines where we’ve seen bad practice, and in some cases bringing about change that affects workers across the UK.

These legal battles not only impact individuals but in many cases, can benefit the whole pilot community and in one case even set precedents for all employees in the country, giving power to all unions across the UK.

5. A hand on the career ladder

Whether you are an aspiring pilot looking for advice on how to get in to the career through to an experienced pilot looking to step up to a new position, BALPA can help. Our Membership and Career Services team know the pilot job market inside out and offer members access online to independent resources in career and employment matters. From factsheets to work shops and from careers fairs to the crew connected service that puts people in touch with working pilots, BALPA has it all to offer.  

And BALPA is there for pilots even through the worst of times. When redundancy hit helicopter pilots in the North Sea and the demise of Monarch also left pilots out of work, your association was there with a programme of action and support. We offered legal and industrial advice, assistance in understanding the redundancy process and careers advice to help pilots get back in the air. And as we progress through 2018, many of those pilots have found new jobs and we will continue to support them through their new careers.

6. Helping you keep your money safe

It can be difficult to work out how to keep your money safe and plan for life after your piloting career comes to an end. But BALPA is there again with expert advice and help. Our financial service BALPA Financial Solutions Limited (BFS) offers a broad range of financial products and advice while the BALPA Benevolent Fund can provide help and support in times of hardship. 

BFS specialises in pensions and investment advice and offers a Loss of Licence policy to members.    


As trade unions go, BALPA isn’t the biggest. But with the access we have to a community of pilots and with established relationships with the regulator, industry bodies and the media, we punch well above our weight. 
The heart of BALPA is the pilots that become part of this family. The strong BALPA is, the more we can do for you, for all pilots and for the safety of aviation in Britain and beyond.  

Posted on 06 September 2018

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