Pilots get five-star accommodation and generous travel benefits‚ at a cost of R697 million a year for South African Airways‚ according to a report.
The Citizen newspaper reported on Friday that pilots are:
– accommodated in hotels of the highest global standards
– entitled to free family travel on a preferential basis to normal fee-paying passengers – in business class.
Quoting a SAA insider‚ the report stated: “It gets worse. If a pilot gets divorced‚ the previous wife gets the benefits and the new girlfriend gets the benefit at the same time.”
Pilots are also entitled to 90 days sick leave‚ which may be extended to 180 days in a one-year rolling cycle‚ the Citizen said. Management‚ meanwhile‚ is entitled to 36 working days’ sick leave in a three-year cycle.
SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu said pilots are also entitled to take a two-year sabbatical while their jobs are guaranteed on their return‚ allowing them to work for another airline during that time.
This issue was also highlighted in September last year‚ when SAA board chairperson Dudu Miyeni sent an internal memo to staff stating that salaries paid to SAA pilots were “exorbitant and unaffordable“.
Myeni said SAA pilots were a “paltry” 12% of the carrier’s total workforce in SA but accounted for more than 40% of the airline’s salary bill.
Fat salaries for pilots is not unique to South Africa.
Bloomberg reported recently that with its aviation sector booming‚ China is throwing money at these highly skilled professionals. Chinese airlines need to hire almost 100 pilots a week for the next 20 years to meet skyrocketing travel demand.
“Facing a shortage of candidates at home‚ carriers are dangling lucrative pay packages at foreigners with cockpit experience‚” the Bloomberg report stated‚ adding that pilots from emerging markets‚ including Brazil and Russia‚ could quadruple their salaries in China.