No shortage of pilots in the airline industry, says Willie Walsh

The chief executive of the International Airlines Group (IAG), Willie Walsh, has said there is no shortage of pilots in the airline industry, confirming that Aer Lingus has recently received 3,000 applications for 100 pilot jobs.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh speaking at the Shannon Chamber President's Lunch at Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, on Friday. Picture: Eamon Ward

Speaking at the Shannon Chamber of Commerce’s President’s lunch at Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, Mr Walsh referred to Ryanair’s recent flight cancellation troubles and said the bigger problem that Ryanair faced was a shortage of people with sufficient experience to be promoted to captain.

“There are lots of pilots in the market,” he said. “There aren’t many who have the qualifications to fly as a captain.”

IAG owns and operates Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia airlines and Mr Walsh described Ryanair’s recent flight cancellation troubles as a blip.

Mr Walsh said what happened to Ryanair he would not “wish on anybody”.

“Michael O’Leary is an incredible competitor, very aggressive,” he said. “If anyone could fix it, he would fix it and he has done that.

“I don’t buy into the belief that this was something structural. It was just a blip. Ryanair has fixed it and has moved on and they will be as strong as ever. Personally, I don’t take any pleasure out of seeing someone else go through some difficulty and we wish Michael O’Leary well.”

Under Mr Walsh’s leadership, IAG has increased its workforce from 57,000 employees in 2011 to 63,000 employees. However, Mr Walsh confirmed IAG does not have a human resources department.

“It is something I do slightly differently — I refuse to have a HR department.” He told the audience that “outsourcing your management of people to a HR department is wrong”.

“We all have a responsibility to the people that we work with and for,” he said. “It is fascinating to see how an organisation tries to create one and comes up with innovative names and as soon as spot them I get rid of them.”

Mr Walsh said his ambition for Aer Lingus is unlimited.

“Until we discover we have gone everywhere we can and there is no where left go to, I think there is huge opportunity for the company,” he said.

With the recently announced Dublin-Seattle route, Aer Lingus operates 13 routes to the US from Ireland — compared to six when IAG first purchased the company in 2015.

He said: “It bemused my colleagues in London when they would read about the questions we were being asked and the challenges that were being levelled against us.

“We bought it because we wanted to grow it and we have already exceeded all of the commitments we gave.

“We wanted to purchase Aer Lingus because of its transatlantic network. We saw great opportunity there.”

Mr Walsh said the airline is to take delivery of eight 180 seat Airbus A321LR aircraft in 2019 for its transatlantic network which he believes will be a “potential game changer” for the airline.


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