By DebbieH 18 Nov 2019 7 min read

Moving for a pilot job: the pros and cons


Pilot migration is becoming common place across the globe and is sometimes necessary for commercial airline pilots who want to secure the best possible wages. 

Many pilots can move to different countries or continents several times a year, which can be considered to be a lucrative move, but can provide numerous obstacles to overcome and result in significant lifestyle changes. Moving and working abroad is an exciting prospect, however, it is a major step in anyone’s career and requires serious thought before applying for pilot jobs that allow this.

The Benefits

Pilots can benefit from higher salaries when working for airlines across the globe. Alongside salary, you’ll likely be provided accommodation, expenses, and other highly valued benefits to make your life and job easier. Most pilots, particularly those working for commercial airlines, receive a healthy set of benefits including health, life, vision and dental insurance, as well as a retirement plan.

They also get paid vacation time, which increases incrementally based on years of service. Considering pilots often have a lot of downtime between flights – sometimes as much as two weeks of every month – that translates to a lot of free time for pursuing leisure activities or other business aspirations. 

Pilots, by the very nature of their occupation, have the opportunity to travel the world. While much time is spent in airports, or sleeping to prepare for the next leg of a journey, a lot of opportunity abounds to see and learn about other lands and cultures.

Additionally, pilots and their family members enjoy free travel perks, which means that they have the opportunity to travel for pleasure as well as for business. Many commercial pilots, in fact, get free or reduced travel, even after retirement.

You can also benefit from a lower cost of living in another country – the cost of living in the UK is expensive, so living costs are worth looking in to before approaching an airline in another country. 

Relocating for work looks great on your pilot CV – it helps airlines to understand your passion working as a pilot. 

Experiencing different cultures can help to strengthen your own confidence in dealing with unanticipated situations. It can help develop your cultural awareness and challenge you to better adapt to new situations.

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Things To Consider

Before accepting a job in another country a pilot must consider the cultural differences they may face.

  • For example, a foreign person living in the Middle East must respect the traditions which can be in stark contrast to what they are used to back in the United Kingdom.
  • Continuing with the Middle Eastern example, you must also consider factors like the change in climate. Can you deal with uncomfortable levels of heat or cold that you’re used to?
  • Entertainment can also differ in another country – cinemas and theatres showing western productions can be rare, and purchasing alcohol can be very difficult unless you pay a premium in hotels. You can however, find great museums, outdoor activities, water parks, nature reserves, racecourses and more.
  • The dress code must also be respected in different countries, particularly for women, with low cut skirts and the showing of shoulders deemed offensive, some countries may require women to be more aware of their outfit choices.
  • The language barrier could be a problem for some, and moving to a new country with very few English speakers can make it difficult to find new friends. It is wise to make a start in learning the native language before travelling, to get the most out of your new career. However, many of your co-colleagues will be able to speak English fluently, so all is not lost if learning a language is not your forte.
  • Some locations, especially in Africa and Asia will require vaccinations before travelling, so a local GP should be consulted to arrange this.


Are You Psychologically Prepared?

Leaving friends and family behind can be a difficult decision for anyone, especially when it entails moving thousands of miles away to a country which potentially requires a major lifestyle shift.

Not having the same level of support to fall back on can result in homesickness and stress – your psychological wellbeing is the most important thing to consider when moving abroad.

Staying in touch with loved ones is made much easier by advancements in technology, with free-to-use software such as Skype, Whatsapp & Viber, while high quality internet camera equipment can be very affordable, allowing you to connect with family members in seconds.

Of course, any video calls must be arranged with the time difference in mind, so make sure you pre-arrange a suitable time to get in touch.


Research Potential Working and Living Conditions

Any pilots considering a move to another country should research the working conditions of the airline and the living conditions of the country. Many airlines provide accommodation for its pilots – if this is an option then you should try to obtain as much information as possible so you can research the area and building online before you move.

Foreign pilots are usually not part of a union, so it is important to find out your rights as an employee and assess what options are available if the airline acts improperly or provides unsatisfactory conditions.

If the job has been arranged by a recruitment agency, then you should speak with them to confirm any details, or ask if you can be put in touch with a person they have recently placed at the company.


What Are The Financial Benefits?

Commercial airline pilots can achieve a 126% wage increase by relocating from the UK to the United Arab Emirates according to figures published by Arabian The study showed that the average salary of a pilot in the UK is £60,052, while the average in the UAE is almost £135,000 a year.

The same study showed that the best countries to go in search of a better wage are: New Zealand, China, USA, UAE, Australia, Switzerland, Germany & Austria.

The cost of living can also be much cheaper than in the UK, particularly for pilots who previously lived in London. From rent, to your weekly food shop, the cost of everyday living can be significantly lower and when combined with a healthy wage increase a pilot working abroad can save an impressive sum of money.


How To Be Considered For an Overseas Pilot Job

Firstly, make sure your license and qualifications are up to date…

Ensuring your professional skill set is the best it can be and having the latest qualifications can stand a pilot in good stead in terms of being headhunted by foreign airlines. A pilot should try to consider their career for the next twelve months as some employers may have strict requirements in terms of the validity of a pilot’s documents.

Pilots should have an up-to-date license, be able to pass Class 1 medical clearance in the relevant country and conduct on-going research into the aviation industry. You should also consider what you’ll need to relocate to a different country, like working visas etc. 

Once a pilot is confident that their documentation, fitness and industry knowledge is up to scratch, they will be ready to take the next step in their career.