Aldi instead of cockpit: How the Lufthansa student pilot’s dream threatens to burst

That was the goal of the 700 flight students: a job in a Lufthansa Group cockpit like this one.

That was the goal of the 700 flight students: a job in a Lufthansa Group cockpit like this one.


Actually, 700 flight students were supposed to go to school at the Bremen flight school with the glorious name “European Flight Academy”. Instead, some of them drive out food, some work as postmen, others sit at the cash register at Aldi – because the Lufthansa flight school is closed. Because of Corona.

And that doesn’t seem so inconvenient for Europe’s largest airline: Please sign the termination agreement and leave, she calls out to her flight students.

Lufthansa Aviation Training (LAT) takes care of the entire training and further education of its flight personnel for the Group; Among other things, the LAT operates the “European Flight Academy”. In March, those responsible for LAT announced a “training break” at all locations. After March there was radio silence for a few months.

Paul S. reports this to Paul has been a student pilot since 2018 and because the LAT does not want its young pilots to speak to the media, his name has been changed for this text.

Flight students feel they are under pressure from Lufthansa

When the pandemic broke out, Paul was just in Goodyear, Arizona. This is where the budding pilots make their first flight attempts because the weather conditions are ideal. He praised the organization that Lufthansa brought the flight students back from the USA quickly and unbureaucratically. After that, however, he felt left alone: ​​In July, the LAT informed him that the school would no longer open this year.

Then there was no more update until this message on September 29th: The LAT could not recommend continuing the training, as there are no prospects in a cockpit of the Lufthansa Group, neither with Lufthansa itself, nor with Austrian Airlines, Swiss, or Brussels or Eurowings.

In a webcast, the LAT managers made it unmistakably clear that they would be happy if Paul and his colleagues left their training voluntarily. They are even allowed to keep the bonus of 20,000 euros with which the students were lured to Lufthansa when the pilot shortage was great. “There is no better time to become a pilot than now,” was one of the standard sentences at the flight school.

If Paul leaves voluntarily, all rights and obligations for him and the LAT cease to exist, they go their separate ways. If he insists on wanting to complete the training, it can be expensive: Half of the costs for pilot training are borne by the LAT and half by the pilot’s students. Normally, the amount of 60,000 to 80,000 euros can be gradually paid off from the salary in the event of a later employment in the Lufthansa Group.

If there is no employment, the money has to be paid out of pocket – not only the part for the training, but also the later license for an aircraft type in the amount of 35,000 euros. In the worst case, that is 115,000 euros. The trainee pilots feel under pressure. learned this from several conversations with them.

Paul’s great dream of flying is now threatening to burst

Since he was three years old and was allowed into the cockpit on a flight to Fuerteventura, he wanted to become a pilot. When he was six years old, when asked about his career aspirations, Paul answered professionally: “Flight captain on a 737!”

“We don’t expect to be hired straight away,” he says, making it clear that he recognizes the extent of the crisis. “We would be prepared to wait many years after completing our training!” Paul describes himself and his classmates as having a deep enthusiasm for the job and a great loyalty to Lufthansa. “I don’t know of any other industry in which apprentices would voluntarily wait for years,” says Paul. He cannot understand how this loyalty can be so little valued.

The LAT itself says that due to Corona, the future prospects for pilots had turned 180 degrees within a very short time. “For a very long time, all airlines worldwide have no need for pilots, with or without flight experience. Many well-known airlines have already had to dismiss well-trained pilots or are about to do so, ”explains a company spokesman, pointing out that the students are offered advice and that they cooperate with universities that can accept the flight students in their courses.

In the meantime even the homepage of the “European Flight Academy” has been reduced to a minimum. Interested applicants are called out: “We are continuously monitoring and evaluating the current situation and are working on a concept for the future of the ‘European Flight Academy’, which will then be presented on our website.”

Lufthansa is also negotiating the future of training with the Federal Ministry of Defense. The flight instructor suspects that Lufthansa intends to offer air force training on a propeller plane at Rostock-Laage Airport in the medium term. There you can employ personnel far away from the collectively agreed wages more cheaply.

“If neither our own pupils nor pupils from other customers come into our system in the foreseeable future, the flight school will dry up,” says the flight instructor. He is one of 35 LAT trainers.

A decision on the future of the locations of the “European Flight Academy” has not yet been made, emphasized a company spokesman for the LAT. “It is planned to continue to run flight schools under the European Flight Academy brand and we are trying to keep all of our existing flight school locations. But in a restructured form, because the existing setup no longer fits the current market situation.


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