When the aviation industry takes off again, would you consider flying for a flag carrier? Many pilots aspire to fly for their home country flag carrier since they have been flying with them since they were children. Historically, the term “flag carrier” refers to airlines owned by the government of their home country. However, these days a flag carrier can refer to any airline with a strong connection to its home country, regardless of whether it is government-owned.
Both financially and symbolically flag carriers hold a certain amount of significance in the aviation industry. Some passengers feel an allegiance to these airlines and fly with their national flag carrier for the sense of pride that it gives them. Also, some passengers fly with flag carriers over other airlines, due to the image that they are safer and less likely to encounter financial difficulties.
While there are many advantages to flying for a flag carrier, there are also distinct differences from other carriers.
Work from home base
Flying for a flag career involves flying in and out of your country’s main “hub” airports. If you live near one of these, this means you will be a “home-based” pilot, which is of course a great plus in terms of quality of life. A short drive to reach the workplace is something that most pilots would aspire to!
If you do not live near one of the company’s major hubs, you can usually still easily make it work by using its wide network to commute by plane to your workplace. You would then become what is called a “commuter” pilot. Flag carriers usually have a very robust, stable, and developed flying schedule, which means you can rely on it to commute to work. Also, as a pilot for a flag carrier, you have access to heavily discounted fares when booking with your own airline.
The pilot salaries at national carriers can be much higher than at a regional airline or low-cost airline. And in addition to higher salaries, flag carriers offer financial benefits such as pensions. What’s more, flag carriers often pay for their pilots’ type ratings, which means you will have the opportunity to be qualified on several types of airplanes during your career, without having to invest yourself in the type ratings required to operate them.
Excellent Reputation Since they are government-regulated, flag carriers are in theory held to a high standard. Many people perceive flag carriers as an extension of the foreign office or an “embassy with wings.” As a result, flag carriers enjoy a favorable reputation within their countries and around the globe.
Having been hired and having flown for a flag carrier is also a good reference on your CV due to its reputation and the difficulty of their selection process. Flag carriers typically attract many applications when they open a position, meaning you must work hard to make it through the assessment process!
Fly More Types of Aircraft
Flag carriers are connecting a country with the world. This means they are operating on a wide network, flying regional, short-haul, medium-haul, and long-haul routes. They are operating different fleets of aircraft, which will give you more variety throughout your career. Each fleet has its specific destinations, which means that every 5 or 10 years, you could apply for a change of fleet and see other parts of the world!
Demanding selection process
Once a flag carrier opens a position, it gets inundated with CV’s applications. The selection process is therefore very selective and making it through the whole assessment process is a true challenge. It will typically consist of psychotechnical tests, knowledge tests, group exercises, and simulator assessment. The time between each of these 4 stages is usually between 2 and 4 months, meaning the entire assessment process is very slow and could take up to a complete year.
Pilots stay in positions longer
Because most pilots do not change jobs once they have secured a position within a flag carrier, and because flag carriers are based on seniority, the time it will take you to move from a copilot position to a captain position will be much longer than that in a low-cost airline for example. When low-cost airlines promote pilots to captain positions within 5 years in the company, the same cannot be said for flag carrier airlines and you could have to wait between 10 and 15 years to move “from right to left” in the cockpit.
Bases are typically within the same country
Flying for a flag carrier will most likely not make you relocate to another foreign base as all bases are within the same country. While a low-cost pilot could be based in several different countries during his or her career and hereby learning both their culture and their local languages, a flag carrier pilot will only be exposed to different cultures during layovers.
A higher level of customer service
Increasingly over the years, passenger experience has been on the decline for low-cost carriers who have been prioritized over customer service. This has led many travelers to perceive flag carriers as providing a more elevated level of service around the world.
Being a pilot for a flag carrier is still today a position of prestige and national pride. Flag carriers are known for presenting a nation’s cuisine, flaunting their colors, and displaying unique hospitality. Plus, as stated earlier, since they’re government regulated, they’re held to a high standard. For an aviator, becoming a pilot for a flag carrier is a great pathway to a rewarding career.
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