Without action, the next pilot shortage in the Middle East is all but inevitable, according to Oliver Wyman


Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled a historical global pilot shortage but steps already need to be taken by airlines to ensure pilot supply does not fall short again, according to findings by Oliver Wyman, a global leader in management consulting.

Until 2020, securing a pipeline of new pilots has been a primary concern for airlines around the world due to rising retirements, high financial barriers to entry and rapid airline capacity growth amongst others, according to Oliver Wyman. However, with the onslaught of COVID-19, passenger airline travel grinded to a halt and corresponding demand for pilots plummeted.

In line with World Pilots’ Day, which will be celebrated on April 26th, the Oliver Wyman findings have revealed that although pilot shortage in the Middle East is not likely to emerge until the middle of the decade, it is expected to steadily grow again through to 2029. Moreover, as a traditional net importer of pilots, growth in this region may impact other regions’ supply.

“While airlines are understandably focused on addressing the immediate impacts of the global pandemic, preparing for the impending pilot shortage will be essential in re-growing and re-building operations in the coming years,” said Michael Wette, Head of IMEA Transportation & Services at Oliver Wyman

“This is particularly relevant in the Middle East where newly announced regulatory measures, local availability of the vaccine, and the upcoming Expo 2020 festivities will allow economic activity to return to normality. Due to the pivotal role that air transport plays in the economy, the industry will recover and with it – the demand for pilots.”

Although Middle Eastern airlines continued to invest in local training during the downturn, the overall capacity for organic growth is limited. The region also suffers from an ageing workforce with 20% of pilots older than 55 years, which will drive further retirements in the coming years.  

Some steps that airlines can take in preparation for the impending pilot shortage include reducing pilot demand byrethinking crew operations, thereby reducing the total pilots required, while driving down costs in the process. Reinforcing the pipeline by continuing to invest in training programs and engaging the workforce will also be helpful in addressing the shortage, while creating job opportunities in the region, according to Oliver Wyman. 

About Oliver Wyman:

Oliver Wyman is a global leader in management consulting. With offices in 60 cities across 29 countries, Oliver Wyman combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, and organization transformation. The firm has more than 5,000 professionals around the world who work with clients to optimize their business, improve their operations and risk profile, and accelerate their organizational performance to seize the most attractive opportunities. Oliver Wyman is a business of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC].