Russia's Rossiya airline runs out of Russian pilots, hires foreigners for the first time

Russia's Rossiya airline runs out of Russian pilots, hires foreigners for the first time
Rossiya airline can't find enough Russian pilots. / wiki
By Ben Aris in Berlin August 17, 2018

Finding pilots willing to work for Russian airlines has become so tough that for the first time the state-owned Rossiya carrier is looking to recruit from overseas, RBC reports.

Russian pilots have been quitting Russian airlines in droves since the 2014 ruble devaluation. Highly qualified and very experienced, they can find work in other countries where the pay is several times higher.

National carrier Aeroflot in particular has been suffering from rising costs. Wage inflation has sullied its once sparkling investment case, and the labour shortage has become so acute that the company has been forced into drastic action. Thanks to Russia’s large population and long history of military prowess, there has in the past been no shortage of qualified pilots for the domestic airlines. But no more.

Rossiya has been recruiting foreign pilots for flights operating out of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Rostov-on-Don. They will fly Boeing 737, 777 and 747 aircraft as well as Airbus 320s and the capitains will earn up to RUB500,000 ($7,417) per month, or roughly ten-fold the national average wage. A co-pilot's job brings in RUB240,000 a month.

A representative of Rossiya told RBC that foreign pilots have not worked for the company before. The carrier has already received "a large number of calls from all over the world", mainly from the former Soviet republics, from pilots looking for work.

Aeroflot is suffering from the same problem. It has sent a proposal to the Ministry of Transport for changes to the training system for pilots. In particular, the carrier asked for permission to train pilots using airline training centres to increase the number of candidates.