Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways announced that it has recruited about 40 fully qualified pilots from the loss-making airline Alitalia, in which it recently bought a 49 per cent stake.
The recruitment is part of a global campaign by Etihad to hire about 500 to 600 captains and first officers over the next three years.
The new recruits are currently in the process of transferring to Etihad Airways under a three-year contract, with an option to become a permanent employee after this period.
A total of 38 pilots are expected to commence work at Etihad Airways by the end of this year with the remaining two joining the company in the first two months of 2015, the airline said in a statement.
Alitalia’s Captain Francesco De Liddo and First Officer Paolo Sala will be the first two recruits to join Etihad this week. Both employees will attend a three-month training programme to change their pilot license from Airbus A330 and A320 to Boeing 777 aircraft.
Etihad said that 16 more pilots will also attend the three-part programme in Abu Dhabi to change the aircraft type rating in their license.
The training, which will also consist of a corporate induction, will provide guidance in areas such as aircraft systems, safety and special operations. It will then be followed by simulator training and line training on Etihad aircraft, the statement said.
The remaining 24 recruits will continue under their existing type rating and will undertake a short two-month training programme, the Abu Dhabi carrier added.
“Etihad Airways will hire hundreds of pilots over the next three years to keep pace with the rapid expansion of our aircraft fleet and global network,” said James Hogan, president and CEO of Etihad Airways.
“To help achieve our target, we conducted a roadshow in Italy earlier this year to present our airline to Alitalia’s pilots, and invited those interested in joining us to attend interviews and assessments in Rome or Abu Dhabi.”
Alitalia, which received a cash injunction of $751 million from its stake sale to Etihad, had lain off 850 pilots as part of the privatisation programme that the airline underwent five years ago.
Post its deal with Etihad, the Italian carrier’s union boss implied that about 71 pilots could lose their jobs as part of the restructuring process but said that they will have a chance to apply with Etihad.
On the other hand, the aggressive expansion strategy of Gulf airlines has fuelled demand for pilots and trained technicians.
A recent report released by aircraft manufacturer Boeing showed that the Middle East region alone will require 40,000 new pilots between 2013 and 2032 to keep up the pace of growth in its aviation sector.