Pilot Training in 2020 | How has Pilot Training been affected by COVID - 19?

Pilot Training in 2020 | How has Pilot Training been affected by COVID - 19?

The Impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry has been severely damaging. It’s been widely reported that aviation is amongst the worst affected industries to date.
Grounded flights worldwide leave behind logistical planning nightmares, while ever-changing quarantine measures leave travellers with little trust or certainty, and airlines, aircraft manufacturers, ground staff, and airline pilots faced bankruptcy, redundancy, cuts, and a future of unknowns.

But what about those individuals who were due to start pilot training in 2020? Or the ones who were halfway through when the pandemic hit? 
What is the future of pilot training?  Should COVID-19 deter you from starting pilot training? Or should you use this opportunity to secure a lower fee for your pilot training? 

In this guide, we round up the latest pilot job news, training offers, and industry predictions to help you make an informed decision about your potential pilot training courses. 

Industry Overview

IATA, the International Air Transport Association, published their economic outlook for the airline industry on 9th June 2020. For an industry booming over the last decade, the IATA report came as a rather sobering read.

IATA does not believe that global passenger numbers will return to 2019 levels until at least 2024, a date pushed back as the pandemic progresses. As we wait for this return of demand, airlines have been flying very low percentages of their usual schedule with much-reduced load factors. 
This image taken from the IATA report shows that around 40% of air travel demand has been lost this year to the effects of recession and confidence. It expects the remaining demand for travel to return, dependent on the government restrictions and airport procedures that are put in place. 

As such an industry already riddled with debt, this pandemic could be catastrophic for many companies. IATA states that airlines have burnt through $61 billion dollars in cash during Q2 of 2020.

The big question, though, what does this mean for Pilot jobs? 

So far, there have been a handful of airline casualties due to the pandemic, including Virgin Australia, Avianca of Colombia, and Flybe here in the UK. This has, of course, resulted in pilot job losses. There have also been job losses from operational airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Norwegian. 

Any good news?

In recent airline announcements, some have stated how there is evidence that once travel restrictions are lifted, there is a thirst to travel, how the industry recovers will be highly dictated by travel restrictions, airport testing, and other government actions.

Some positivity can also be taken from the fact that at the time of writing, it is understood that both easyJet and Ryanair have averted any pilot job losses through the use of part-time uptake. This shows clear solidarity in the industry between pilots during this crisis. 

Types of Pilot Training available in 2020/2021

Over the past few years, pilot training’s main routes through the largest pilot training schools have been Modular, Integrated ATPL & MPL. For a more in-depth breakdown of these courses’ differences, head over to our ATPL vs. MPL blog.  So which of these courses is still on offer during 2020 & 2021?

MPL - Multi-Crew Pilots Licence

Over the past five years or so, these courses have become very popular among airlines as a way to train their cadets. Because of the proposed airline job at the end of these courses, they had become highly sought after.

However, during the pandemic, almost all airlines have dropped their cadets on MPL programmes.

L3 Harris attracted the spotlight, when a letter they issued to trainees circulated via the media after distraught MPL trainees were forced into a corner. 
The Airline Academy asked cadets for an additional £64,00 to change their training pipeline from MPL to ATPL.

MPL Overview

Estimated cost: £90,000 - £120,000
Available at: FTE JerezL3 Harris & CAE Oxford
Time taken: 1.5 - 2 years
Job likelihood: Currently not offered due to COVID - 19

Integrated ATPL - Airline Transport Pilots Licence

The integrated ATPL is a well-established pilot training course. It offers to take people with no experience to a CPL/IR within two years. Many of the larger schools have also been offering airline placement opportunities over the last decade or so.

These courses are still being offered during the pandemic, but the chances of getting a job straight after training are slim. In the space of six months, the industry has gone from a pilot shortage to a large pilot surplus, and with the IATA predictions, this may not recover for at least four years.

However, should you be prepared to keep your licence valid after training, you may find that starting a course now could be good for your pocket. With confidence in the industry at an all-time low, the schools are desperate for new trainee pilots, so keep your eyes peeled for cut-price training.

ATPL Overview

Estimated cost: £85,000 - £130,000 (Keep an eye out for offers & negotiate!)
Available at: FTE JerezL3 Harris & CAE Oxford, Leading Edge AviationVA Airline Training & more.
Time taken: 1.5 - 2 years
Job likelihood: Dependent upon the recovery of the industry post COVID - 19

Modular Training

Modular training is the bit by bit, part-time approach to flight training. It allows the trainee to jump through the hoops at their own pace and generally has lower costs. Immediate airline jobs for pilots training this way have generally been harder to come by than MPL or Integrated students. However, with the airline job shortage, the advantage of the Integrated & MPL has been severely reduced.

Due to this type of training’s length & cost, modular should be a consideration should you wish to begin pilot training imminently. The course sections will generally be broken into PPL, ATPL exams, CPL & finally, the IR.

Latest Jobs


To stay up to date on the latest Pilot jobs available, we recommend using some of the links below. 

A word from current trainees

So how are current trainees getting on? We asked some of our readers to tell us about their experience with flight training during the pandemic. These are genuine responses from current trainees.

Current student - European Flight Academy

What flight training programme are you on? MPL/ATPL/Modular?


​How disruptive has COVID been for your flight training progress?

Quite disruptive. Flight training has been put on hold since march 2020. Currently still waiting to find out if/when it will continue.

What measures are in place from your flight school to support your employment?

I don’t know really. Not a lot of information is shared regarding this topic.

Do you have any advice for anyone starting flight training now?

I’m sure there will be a demand for pilots again in the future, but currently the situation doesn’t look very promising. So maybe try to time your training to complete by when new pilots are expected to be needed again (but this is a challenge to time correctly of course).

Have you received any financial breaks from your pilot training loan provider or school?

EFA is paying for the training and we start paying back the costs once we have a job in the cockpit. If Lufthansa isn’t able to do this within 3 years we’ll have to start paying back the training costs regardless.

Current MPL Student - UK training school

What flight training programme are you on? MPL/ATPL/Modular?


How disruptive has COVID been for your flight training progress?

6 month delay to training and likely further delays due to developing backlogs and the withdrawal of a provisional job offer on completion of the MPL.

What measures are in place from your flight school to support your employment?

Keeping current programme post graduation at a reduced rate in order to keep licenses, ratings TR’s etc current as well as the usual recruitment consultant services.

Do you have any advice for anyone starting flight training now?

Reconsider your options especially if you are already established in a career. Flight training has a large financial barrier to entry which is a risk ordinarily and given the overcrowding of the job market with current cadets and redundant pilots coupled with the fact airlines are unlikely to recruit for a couple of years if you haven’t started training I would advise against starting. If you are adamant about starting training perhaps consider a modular approach which reduces the financial risk, takes typically longer to achieve (giving the industry time to recover) and Allows you to remain employed.

Have you received any financial breaks from your pilot training loan provider or school?

Flight school has paused invoicing since March until MPL cadets have established how they plan on proceeding with their training.

Our Opinion

Should you wish to embark on pilot training, we believe you ought to prepare yourself for an increased time waiting for your first job. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start now. Getting your licence now could get you to the front of the queue when the music begins again. There is also the added benefit of the potentially reduced flying costs due to the lower fuel prices & demand for courses. 
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