Swiss pilots could retrain as train drivers

Helen Coffey
·2 min read
Airline Swiss are looking at potential retraining ideas for pilots (Getty Images)
Airline Swiss are looking at potential retraining ideas for pilots (Getty Images)

Pilots who are largely unable to fly during the coronavirus pandemic could retrain as train drivers.

Switzerland’s flag carrier Swiss and subsidiary airline Edelweiss are currently looking into the feasibility of offering a retraining programme, reports French newspaper Le Point.

While thousands of flights are grounded across the world due to travel restrictions, Swiss rail companies are struggling with the opposite problem – many trains are having to be cancelled due to a lack of staff.

Rail companies Chemins de fer fédéraux suisses (SBB/CFF) and Rhetische Bahn (RhB) report that, each day, they are short by around 30 drivers.

A retraining scheme could benefit both transport industries.

The training to become a driver typically takes around 14 to 16 months.

Aeropers, a Swiss union representing nearly 1,300 pilots, has been supportive of the idea.

“This might come as a surprise, but many things are very similar, such as the fascination with technology, the transport of people and goods from point A to point B, safety or a sense of responsibility,” a spokesperson told Swiss newspaper Le Nouvelliste.

“In our eyes, this is a win-win situation. We ask our employers to think outside the box.”

It comes after the UK’s leading pilots’ union warned wannabe pilots not to bother training for the foreseeable future.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) said it would be “irresponsible” to encourage trainees to pay upwards of £100,000 only to find they cannot get employed as a pilot when they complete their training.

There are currently 10,000 unemployed commercial pilots across Europe, 1,600 of whom are in the UK, according to Wendy Pursey, head of membership and careers services at Balpa.

She estimated that around 200 people who are already in flight training schools and were lined up for jobs with easyJet no longer have a clear path into employment, or even to obtaining their licence.

“This is not a positive picture for anyone whose heart is set on entering this profession,” said Ms Pursey. “There will be fewer jobs, with more people competing for each one even once this pandemic is over.

“In this situation it would be irresponsible if we did anything other than warn people to consider delaying their flight training at this time.”

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