My story: 2 years being unemployed as a commercial pilot

Up until now, there are a lot of unemployed pilots that are looking for an airline job. I have been there myself and I can tell you that the first airline job is quite hard to find. Airlines hire a relatively low amount of ‘new’ pilots compared to how many pilots enter the market. As you can imagine, the competition is therefore high and together with all the expenses, (Read article The Real Deal here) being unemployed and looking for your first airline job is not easy. In this article I will tell you about those 2 years of unemployment and what my life looked like.

Demand & Supply
In a time of low demand and high supply, obviously, airlines take the best qualified people they can get their hands on. These are the people with the highest amount of flight hours (experience) or people who had the best grades during their training. An average of 95% without any retakes is therefore sometimes not even good enough. I graduated at the end of 2013. The market was not good but at least things were moving. While you are trying to get a job at an airline you need another job to cover all the expenses. Unfortunately it is very common for ab initio’s to have a job that doesn’t involve flying a commercial aircraft for the first couple of years since the chance of obtaining an airline job immediately after graduating is very small. This brings me to the next item.

Work, Work, Work
So what kind of job could you do which is so flexible that you can cancel any day and leave whenever you want? Because this is what you are looking for, right?! For an interview, airlines contact you at the very last minute so it is necessary to work for a flexible company. I started working for a lawyers office and the people at this compa
ny were incredibly nice. I had the best time but in the meantime I realized that staying at this office would not improve my chances of finding an airline job. To be attractive for airlines you need to be able to show them that you have maintained your aviation related skills and knowledge.. By doing so, you show the company that you are highly motivated and that you do whatever it takes to achieve your goals.

Stay in aviation!

Besides the lawyers office I started working as an ‘instructor’ for a simulator company. The airplane: B737-800. This was voluntary work but in turn I could fly in their simulator whenever I wanted. This was the ultimate combination since I could keep up my skills and in the meantime earn money at the lawyers office. This is also what I would advise anyone who is looking for an airline job. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something related to flying it’s good. This job helped me a lot with my instrument scan and to maintain my flying skills. Because I flew in that simulator daily, I knew exactly how to manually fly the B737-800. As you might understand, this was a big advantage during the assessment.

Will I ever get a job?
During these 2 years of unemployment I lived at home with my parents. The money I earned at the lawyers office went straight to the bank to cover the monthly interest. Any salary that was left I spent on things to keep my licence current (medical, insurance, multi-engine instrument rating etc). Almost every month another huge expense without seeing good developments concerning airline jobs. In the meantime I tried to keep up my knowledge as well so I studied a lot. I noticed that continuing like this would not make my life easier. Every day I woke up thinking, shit! Thoughts like: I still don’t have a job. Will it ever happen? Maybe they will never hire me… ran through my head every day. But thinking about quitting? NEVER! If you are an unemployed pilot looking for a job, you might recognize yourself in my situation. The advise I can give you is to hold on and don’t give up or become ‘lazy’. I know that it is hard to be rejected, to spend loads of money for an interview, and to not even get a response at all. At least you tried. If you hold on and do the best you can then you will get the job eventually, believe me.  Luckily for me it has only been 2 years, but understand that there are many people who have given up this dream because it took too long.

Look at it in a positive way
What I am going to say next is what I have experienced during the last few years and especially this year. It’s not just to cheer you up. When I graduated, everyone around me said that the market was becoming better and better and    that I should get a job very soon. The biggest bullshit I have ever heard since it was based on nothing more than rumors and hope. These days though, a lot of airlines are hiring pilots and a lot of experienced European pilots move to the Middle East and China to earn more money. This means more space and more demand in Europe. Besides, there are a lot of oustanding airplane orders by many European airlines compared to a few years ago. Ryanair alone hires around 700/800 new pilots every year. What I am trying to say is that nowadays, the market is really changing. Before you know it there will be a pilot shortage. What this means? Get off that couch and make sure you rock that interview!


See you in the air colleague! 🙂

39 thoughts on “My story: 2 years being unemployed as a commercial pilot

  1. Hi Michelle, my name is Jonathan, a 16year old boy who aspires to be a pilot. I have a question about flying experience. How or where are you supposed to get the experience you need to be employed in an airline.

  2. Hi Michelle, love the website, so thank you! I am supposed to be starting an integrated ATPL next month. I definitely want to delay this for a bit, but I have already been to university and been travelling, so I don’t wish to delay for too long, otherwise the delay will be a time-waste. What advice can you give me about length of delay? Might things be better in 2022 or 2023? And if I were to get my licence then struggle to get a job for a while, would I have to stay current? Thank you so much in advance!

  3. Hello my name is amni and im 16 years old . Im intrested to become a pilot but im afraid of the risk being jobless . I couldnt thinm amazing job other than pilot. Out of ten how many graduate become jobless? Ouh and also im not form rich family do you think i can get through all this 🙁 my only motivation is my sister eventhough she is a doctor and im very proud of her . I want to make my parent proud as well. I hope you can share al the thing you know about the pilot indrusty

    1. Hi Amni,

      Thank you for leaving a comment. You are still very young. At this time I would focus on getting a degree before applying at a flight school but keep chasing your dream and make decision as you go without losing sight of your goal. A lot of content about the aviation industry is published on this website and my YouTube Channel. Good luck!

  4. Well, I would go opposite if I was to do it all over again. Been flying jets in europe for 18 years. Nice blog for the dreamers, but sorry to say the lust and joy of the job is gone. In my years I have only experienced and seen a continous downturn in terms and condition. Today nearly impossible to combine the occupation with familylife. Flying close to maximum hrs with all the healthrisks: sleepdeprivation, trying to stay fit locked in a seat 13 hrs a day, poor food at 36`ft, high alt radiation, increased pension age and less pension savings (some dont even give any crazy). The most worring is the newly educated talents joining this industry, many are really happy landing the first job. That tells me T/C will only diminish further… on top you will get increasing climatetax on every paxseats in the future. Its a huge risk that airtravel will become unhot due climatechange as well – huge risks.. A 20-30 year old dont think much about it, but 10 years later – when level change is boring and family life starts, most face reality and see that the profession is not even close to 1/3 of what T/C it used to be. Go working for the money instead, go for IT, AI, Google, solar/sea future energy , battery technology etc . …attractive future jobs where the money is – airlines is just busses in the air, fun in the beginning – regrets in the other end…you will never regret if you go for futuristic education instead. In my airline several are actually studing part time masters degree as an backup for the future, thats respect for the hard work they do 🙂

    1. Agree. After grad school, I got my PPL and thought about an aviation career. Glad I didn’t, and for many of the reasons stated above. 35 years later, I have my own company, the money, and the time to fly when and where I want. I also did not want to hate flying if I made it my career. Not trying to discourage folks, but the grass is not always greener on the other side. Choose wisely.
      Thanks Dutch Pilot Girl for a great, well organized site.

  5. Hey Michelle do u think working as a pilot is a satisfactory job and do u thing pilots are unemployed on a huge rate

  6. Hi Michelle
    Great blog ….really liked your struggle and pursuit of your happiness…
    I am currently doing my AME in europe. I am due to finish this year , However I would like to get an ATPL in the future. I studied AME so that i could support myself for PILOT studies. I have an opportunity of getting a PPL with extra flying hours about 60 hrs flight for less money. I wanted to ask you a question ? Is working as an Instructor permitted only with a PPL plus FI ? If so i am planning to get my PPL now and get my ATPL slowly over 2 years as i need to gain experience for my B1 liscence . Also was curious about simulator jobs and how to find them and will flying on sims add on to pilots logbook? I am 27 now so will it affect me as a commercial pilot in the future .i will be 30 by the time i get my ATPL If I am able to .


  7. Hey!! Michelle? … am troubling you again. But I really want to know that what are the vision requirements for a pilot as I wear spectacles. And my specs no. is increasing slowly. Can you please tell me ?? I am curious.

    1. Hello Eshita 🙂 No problem at all. These are the requirements for the class 1 medical:

      Distance Vision – Your visual acuity (measured by your ability to see, in this case, lines of letters on a chart at 6 meters) must be at least 6/9 in each eye separately and 6/6 using both eyes together, with or without glasses or contact lenses (correction). If you need correction the refractive error (the amount of correction) must not exceed +5.00 diopters of long sight or -6.00 diopters of short sight. This is in the most ametropic meridian (taking into account any astigmatism). Astigmatism must not exceed 2.00 diopters. The difference in correction between each eye (anisometropia) must not be more than 2.00 diopters.

      Near Vision – On the standard near vision eye chart you must be able to read the N5 print between 30 and 50 cm and the N14 print at 100 cm, with or without correction.

      Contact Lenses – You may wear contact lenses as a professional pilot, but they must be monofocal, nontinted and for distant vision (not to correct near vision). Any contact lenses should be brought to the examination.

      Eye surgery – Aplicants who have undergone eye suegery may be assessed as fit subject to satisfactory ophthalmic evaluation (see PART-MED.B.070 Visual System Subpart (f)).

      Color Vision – You will be tested for normal color vision with Ishihara Test Plates (a series of numbers or shapes outlined by different colored dots, easily seen by someone with normal color vision). If you fail these you will need to pass an approved lantern test (a series of colored lights that you must identify correctly) in order to gain a PART-FCL Class 1 certificate.

      Eye Function – You must have normal fields of vision. You must not suffer from double vision. Any degree of heterophoria (eye muscle imbalance) in excess of: 8Δ exo, 10Δ eso or 2Δ hyperphoria – measured at 6 m or 12Δ exo, 8Δ eso or 1Δ hyperphoria – measured at 33 cm will require further evaluation by an eye specialist. There must be no acute or chronic disease in either eye or surrounding structures.

      You can find more info by searching for “class 1 medical requirements”, all the best!

  8. Hey Michelle!!?
    Your blog literally inspired me a lot.. I am also aspiring to be a pilot. Even tough there are pretty less girls out there it seems to be a perfect job and I feel that love and passion inside me for flying aircrafts. And CONGRATULATIONS for finally getting a job in the air ? you are really hardworking as it seems pretty clear from your article. You worked and paid your interests and all those expenses made it tough for you but if you are really passionate about something you never think to quit and so did you????
    Please can you wish me all the best for my figure and please can you give an approx idea of the expenditure and money it took you to become a pilot??

      1. Hi Eshita! Thank you for your kind words! In another article I explain how much it actually costs to become an airline pilot. You can find it here 🙂 Especially the second page will provide you with answers. All the best for your future and good luck pursuing your dream! Work hard and anything is possible 😉

        1. Thank you so much Michelle! It really helped me a lot. And l am looking forward to put all the money and hard work in it. I really want to fly that humongous vessel? ? Thanks a lot for your wishes. I’ll surely keep your advice in my mind ?

  9. Hello,
    Your articles are great and I enjoy reading your articles and reading your replies.
    Is there a age limit for the first time applicants of airline pilots?
    By the way iam arjay from Philippines iam now 24. And acting as a chief mate on a small vessel on the Philippines. And have a little savings enough to start my PPL. Iam about to start my PPL for this coming January of 2018.
    I’ve seen your IG that you visit Cebu and Puerto Prinsesa Palawan. I suggest you to visit also SIARGAO ISLAND my home town ????
    Tnx. Keep safe always

    1. Hi Arjay 🙂 Thank you, I am glad you like the articles! Most airlines have an age cap of 31 for unexperienced pilots. This might be different in the Philippines though! And there are also other sorts of careers you can pursue as a pilot… Business aviation, cargo or general aviation also offer nice career opportunities.

      I actually spoke with a young captain from Cebu Pacific. He was very positive about his job and flying in the Philippines! I envy you for being able to fly in SEP aircrafts in the Philippines. It looks even more stunning from above… (I was able to see it using my drone). Anyway… I am no longer in the Philippines but I will surely revisit it in the future. Perhaps I will visit Siargoa Island one day 🙂

      All the best and good luck with your PPL.

  10. perfect article I didnt know there are many unemployed pilots in the world and sit home and wait for chance, but I have two questions is capacity in the air to grow airplanes? there are thousands on planes in air isnt it dangerous to hire thousand of pilots every year? and second question do you have boyfriend? you are so charm sexy girl 😀

    1. Thanks Peter! There is plenty of space in the air for more aircrafts. More and more people travel by aircraft, either privately or for business purposes. Airlines need to expand to keep up with the demand. They order more aircraft so they need more pilots to fly them. At the moment there are still too many pilots in Europe but eventually that will change.

  11. hi Michelle, i loved your blog. Am 21 year old and i would like to start my flight school. Now i finish my graduation in commerce (in 12th grade my stream is science) . So i need your advice, how to start my pilot career.

    1. Hi Ashwin Cherian 🙂 I am glad you like my blog! Perhaps this video might help. Start by visiting pilot schools. Look for sponsorships (training programs by airlines). Take a flying lesson before you start with the selection process. Try to gain as much information as possible to make a proper assessment for yourself. Does this help?

        1. It all depends on the school or sponsorship you want to apply for. When you made up your mind, focus on that particular school or sponsorship and start browsing the internet. A lot of information can be found there. I will soon publish an article about the adapt test. That will feature information about the selection process at some airlines! So stay tuned 😉

  12. Totally identified with your unemployed experience. i’ve a CPL/SE license and i’ve been looking for a job in my country (Colombia) for 2 years. To be honest, i have some chances but i dind’t pass the selection process. However everything helps us to make our selfs stronger and i extract the best of this “bad” experiences to learn about it and obtain an airline job one day.
    Safe flights and happy landings!

    1. Hi Gabriel, I’ve always heard that airlines in Colombia only hire pilots from Colombia, is that correct? If so, your chances of getting in the cockpit one day are quite high I would say… Just keep going and eventually you will get there, I am sure of it! Perhaps you can redo the selection after a certain time? All the best from Amsterdam!

  13. Hi Michelle. First of all great blog and Instagram ? keep up the good work! Starting my introweek in 7 days with Ryanair! So excited! Going to be such a great adventure. Maybe we’ll meet in the cockpit one day! BR/Sabina @pilotsabina

  14. A very interesting article.
    I really like everything about aviation, although I have no professional relationship with the world of aviation. I like to take pictures of all the planes that arrive at TFS and TFN. Greetings.

  15. Great article! I think it’s all about luck and being in the right time at the right place. Timing is the name of the game. And as long as you chase that dream no doubt you will reach it sooner or later. Michelle, now you should share your experiences from the moment you got called for that interview and how did it change your life. And then we would love to hear how you progressed from that moment and on. Keep us updated!!

  16. Really enjoying read and I liked hearing your honest experience and opinion on the aviation market. Like you, I’ve been told that the market is in high demand for pilots but getting that first job is clearly hard! Congratulations on finally getting the job 🙂 I look forward to future blog posts. C

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