Express (Rex) is lobbying the Australian Government to make it easier for
foreign pilots to migrate to Australia
in an effort to overcome the country’s shortage of qualified commercial pilots.
Australia produces 500
pilots a year but we anticipate that over the next 18 months Australia
will need” 2,000 new pilots, Rex chairman
Lim Kim Hai told ATI at the Singapore Airshow
during a Saab Aircraft Leasing press briefing.
is acutely aware of the problem of pilot shortage because in recent months it
has had to temporarily suspend services to some parts of regional Australia
because it has too few pilots to operate its Saab 340s.
has responded to the problem by establishing its own pilot training school
which currently has the first intake, of 16 cadets, and will be producing 20
graduates every three months.
Lim says the carrier is also speaking to the Government to try and have the
country’s immigration laws changed to make it easier for the airline industry to
recruit foreign pilots.
someone wants to migrate to Australia
and they are a hairdresser then they get” points under the country’s skilled
migration programme but “if they are a commercial pilot they get zero points”,
says Lim. To be accepted as a skilled migrant to Australia,
applicants need to achieve a certain score based a number of criteria such as
education, qualifications and job history.
says Rex needs to recruit more pilots because the airline is currently
experiencing an attrition rate of at least 60% per year.
are leaving to join Virgin
Blue, one-third Jetstar and 10-15% Qantas mainline,”
says Lim, referring to two of the country’s fastest growing low-cost carriers
in addition to Qantas Airways.
Rex’s main bases are in Adelaide,
Melbourne and Sydney.
Qantas and Jetstar are based in Sydney and Melbourne
says Rex has smaller bases in regional cities and the attrition rate for pilots in these places is much lower.
pilots based in the country have taken a lifestyle decision”, meaning they want
to live with their family in a country area and are less willing to work for a
larger airline because it would involve moving to the city, he says.
currently has 38 Saab 340s, according to Flight’s ACAS database, plus Lim says Airlink, a
subsidiary in Dubbo, has
two Beech 1900Ds, although this smaller airline has had to delay getting more
[Airlink] was planning to” get more aircraft “but didn’t because we don’t have
enough pilots so the priority goes to the bigger aircraft,” says Lim.
pilot shortage also meant that Rex late last year had to delay its further push
into the Queensland
market. Rex mostly serves the Australian states of New
South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania
and Victoria but last year started serving Brisbane
says Rex chose to expand into Queensland –
rather than into Western Australia or the Northern
Territory – because it “is a natural choice” and Rex was already
serving towns on the border with Queensland
and this state is still close to Sydney in New
says Rex plans to resume its push into Queensland
and claims there is relatively little competition in this market. The two major
players there are QantasLink and MacAir.