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26 OCTOBER 2015
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Carolyn McCall, easyJet CEO, has a commitment to employing more women pilots. That was the theme of her inaugural British Air Transport Association (BATA) lecture. Nothing wrong with that. Ms McCall had a clear message to deliver and she made the most of it. Her comments follow a report, also published last week, that only 6% of registered UK engineers and technicians are female.
How to increase the proportion of women pilots was a challenge familiar to all airlines, she said. At easyJet, diversity was valued as “we believe that having a balanced workforce which better reflects our customers will help support our future success.”
The airline had therefore set a target to double the proportion of new entrants who are female over two years – from 6% to 12%. “We will highlight the opportunities of pilot careers to young, female audiences, especially schools and colleges,” McCall said.
“We will work with our pilot training providers to attract more women to apply for the cadet programme. And we are introducing 10 places for women each year on a training programme with the training loan of £100,000 underwritten by easyJet.
“We will also give further support to our current female pilots, so they can take on leadership roles in training and base management. I hope the industry as a whole will put their support behind this.”
The subject, however, was only one of several she dealt with.
On BATA itself, she said she was pleased to have been invited to give the first annual lecture, as easyJet believed strongly in the association’s purpose. “It is very important that UK airlines have a collective voice, as we are stronger when we speak as an industry,” she said.
One of the issues on which the industry could work together was APD, on which there was a sense of “real progress”.
“We have already had the abolition of the tax for children,” McCall went on. “It showed that the Government can see that cutting APD is good news for families. Now we have the commitment from the Scottish Government to halve the tax there, with a view to ultimately abolishing it.”
This was “a very clear challenge to the UK Government”. Passengers were sensitive to changes in aviation taxes and the UK Government had to consider how it should respond.
McCall said the current options to devolve the tax would only complicate the situation – the only solution was to halve the tax across the rest of the UK too and then set a clear plan to abolish it.
“If we can be clear and consistent as an industry – about reducing and then abolishing the tax everywhere – then our long campaign to remove the tax will succeed.
“And this will be good for passengers and will stimulate demand, so it will be good for our economy.”
Turning to airport capacity, McCall said easyJet’s economic assessment was that a new runway at Heathrow would provide the greatest benefits and the airline welcomed the “strong and clear” recommendation from the Airports Commission for Heathrow.
“If the Government follows the Airports Commission’s recommendation then the industry should provide its strong support,” she added. “But the key thing is that the Government must make a decision. This has already gone on for far too long.”
McCall said easyJet would remain “completely committed” to Gatwick, its largest and growing airport. Luton, Stansted and Southend could also continue to grow and were making the necessary investments but needed better surface access to improve the end-to-end travel experience for passengers.
On the EU referendum, the easyJet CEO recalled her airline was born from the deregulation of European aviation and the EU had helped easyJet and other airlines to deliver lower fares and more routes.
“We have a long-established position in favour of the UK’s membership of a reformed EU,” she added. “Aviation is a very good example of the benefits to the UK of the EU. Consumers gain access to a huge number of destinations at vastly reduced fares.
“It is important on this issue to make the consumer case; otherwise it is in danger of being bogged down on the immediate issues around immigration.”
After urging the industry to continue to work together, McCall ended her lecture by stressing aviation’s “positive message”.
UK airlines led the way in Europe and in the world, she said. Airlines had driven down costs and fares, in a way other parts of the industry had not.
“We have great people, who are highly skilled. We are investing in newer, more fuel efficient, quieter aircraft, to reduce our impact on the environment and local communities,” she added.
“Most importantly, we take people in the UK where they want to go, at more affordable fares and with a better service. So I am very pleased that BATA has brought us together today as an industry. And I look forward to this work continuing.”
Supported by Airbus and SITA, the meeting was held at the London Transport Museum’s fine lecture theatre last week in Covent Garden, an appropriate setting since Transport for London has many women bus and tube drivers. Let us hope the lecture does become an annual event. BATA's new Chief Executive, Nathan Stower, is to be complimented on his initiative.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
David Bentley, Manchester
"Carolyn McCall, easyJet CEO, has a commitment to employing more women pilots." Why? Perhaps they don't want to be. Don't force it on them, they have equal opportunities already. What is this glass ceiling obsession? There are no black police officers in Cheshire. Fine, there aren't many black people there and those that are don't want to be cops. Live with it and move on.
Andrew Sharp, Surbiton
Something over 40% of Heathrow Express train drivers are female.