Faced with a looming pilot shortage, Australia is to again relax visa norms to attract more foreign pilots.
Immigration minister Peter Dutton has tentatively given the green light for the resumption of two-year visas for qualified pilots, the Regional Aviation Association of Australia said.
The association is also pushing for the visas to be expanded to four years.
Pilots had been removed from the foreign worker visa list after the government revamped the system earlier this year.
“In order to attract suitably senior pilots, who more than likely have a family growing up and so forth, we need to make it attractive enough for them to come across and uproot their family. A four-year period seems to be a sweet spot,” said Regional Aviation Association of Australia CEO Mike Higgins.
Higgins says hiring drives by major carriers like Etihad and Emirates have helped fuel the pilot shortage with Australian carriers forced to hire pilots from a limited pool at smaller regional airlines.
Murray Butt, president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, questioned the quality of pilots that will come to work in Australia, given that the shortage has been fuelled by home grown pilots moving overseas for higher salaries.
“Bringing in foreign pilots is definitely a very short-term fix and, given the market, I’m not sure of the quality of the pilots they are going to get,” Butt said.
He also called out the number of flight schools now owned by foreign airline companies which serve to train their own pilots.
The pilot shortage issue has been at the forefront in the last few months after multiple flight cancelations in October and November citing a shortage of cockpit crew at Qantas.