Depleting personnel supply
Pilot scarcity began to stir up headlines in early 2015 when 117 pilots at Vietnam Airlines simultaneously resigned. The reason behind this incident was that the pilots were enticed to join newly established airlines which were able to offer wages 30% - 50% higher for them.
Duong Tri Thanh, general director of Vietnam Airlines, stated that at one point, the state-owned airline lost up to 30% of its pilots to newer airlines which affected its operation immensely. After many attempts to improve the salary regime, Vietnam Airlines has recently raised the average pilot wages but still could not compete with the rate cited by Vietjet Air or Bamboo Airline.
Recently, the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) has issued flight time concessions for an airline’s pilot, allowing pilots to fly no more than 200 hours in 56 consecutive days. This somewhat violated legal regulations that state pilots must not fly more than 100 hours in 28 consecutive days. Though the concession solved the flights delays caused by lack of pilots, extending the flight time could also perturb flight safety.
According to the latest report from Ministry of Transport to the Prime Minister, Vietnam’s airlines industry currently has 225 aircrafts with 2,361 pilots, of which more than 50% are Vietnamese and the rest are foreign pilots. Some airlines such as Jetstar Pacific or Vietjet Air have foreign pilots accounting for over 70%.
As revealed by CAAV, foreign pilots tend to make mistakes more frequently than Vietnamese pilots. Moreover, managing foreign pilots of more than 50 different nationalities is highly difficult, especially when there are not enough legal provisions to support this.
According to aviation experts, attracting personnel with higher salary cannot resolve the overall shortage of professional pilots.
The lack of vision in planning
Ho Minh Tan, Head of Flight Safety Division of CAAV, explained that the shortage of pilots is due to the fact that Vietnam cannot train personnel domestically. Although theoretical courses can be held within the country, practical flight operation trainings still need to be done abroad.
Recently, a number of airlines like Vietjet Air and Vinpearl Air have announced the opening of aviation institutes to take initiative over human resources. However, according to the experts, these institutes would only meet demand for lines of work that do not require high level of professionality such as flight attendants or groundcrew and not for high-quality pilots.
In a report of aviation human resources submitted to the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Transport expected that by 2025, the 5 operating airlines would be in charge of 384 aircrafts, requiring 3,586 pilots and 4,300 technical employees. But it is worth mentioning that these figures have not taken into account the number required in case new airlines enter the market.
The current situation of infrastructure overload and shortage of manpower should be a responsibility of the Ministry of Transport and CAAV. In order to resolve shortage of pilot, Deputy Minister of Transport Le Dinh Tho said that relevant agencies have been requested to implement human resource development project up to 2020 and extend it towards 2030. Additionally, airlines need to actively invest in training facilities and recruitment programs, including subsidizing training costs for pilot students.