Monday, January 26, 2009

Japan Airlines cuts back on pilot training to save money

JAL logoNews from Japan this week says that the country's national flag carrier, Japan Airlines (JAL), is cutting back on aspects of pilot training as a cost cutting measure. Specifically, the carrier is "suspending part of its pilot training programs," including "those in which trainees accompany other pilots at the cockpit aboard actual commercial flights to become familiar with regular air routes, those for gaining promotion to the rank of chief or deputy chief pilots and those for becoming familiar with newly introduced aircraft models," according to an article on the Japan Today website.

The article continues:
A JAL official said the suspensions, which will last until the end of March, "are provisional steps to improve our profitability, so we will continue to provide the training necessary to enable pilots to maintain their maneuvering skills and pertaining to the safety of our flights." While the transport ministry has accepted the step as there is nothing legally wrong with it, some JAL pilots have criticized the suspensions as a move that could undermine safety standards at the airline.
Not surprisingly, JAL pilots do not look kindly upon this move.

"Providing only minimum levels of training is not appropriate to ensure the safety of flights," one JAL pilot said. Another pilot added, "If training is suspended, it will place greater burdens on us when it is resumed."

Apparently part of the cost-cutting focus is not on training per se, but on the cost of accommodation and transportation costs for the pilots and trainers involved.

Separately, Bloomberg News reported late last week that JAL is asking pilots, cabin crew, and ground workers to volunteer for two months of unpaid leave, beginning next month. The Bloomberg article quoted a JAL spokesman who said the airline is anticipating decline in travel during February and March, particularly on its international routes.