Campaigning for Fairness in Financing Flight Training in the UK

By Spyros Georgilidakis | September 16, 2023

Financing flight training remains a big obstacle for aspiring pilots. This press release highlights just one aspect of it, for UK trainees. We received it from Bristol Groundschool.

Earlier this year, Bristol Groundschool, Wings Alliance, Flyer, and the British Airline Association of Pilots (BALPA) collaborated to address a critical concern within the aviation industry. Together, we sent a compelling letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, highlighting the pressing issue of flight training schools requesting substantial upfront payments from aspiring pilots. Since then, BALPA has driven this campaign forward and has been lobbying the Government for a change in the regulation of flight training schools.

Earlier this week, this pivotal issue was brought to the forefront at Westminster, where Tim Loughton, Conservative Member of Parliament for East Worthing and Shoreham, passionately addressed this matter during a Westminster Hall debate. He presented a statement from BALPA’s Interim General Secretary, Miranda Rackle.

Campaigning for Fairness in Financing Flight Training in the UK
Photo: Bristol Groundschool

BALPA has been at the forefront of lobbying efforts to promote regulatory changes within flight training schools. The primary objective is to safeguard students who make significant financial commitments to pursue their dreams of becoming pilots. Unlike traditional universities or other financial obligations covered by the Financial Conduct Authority, pilot training lacks adequate protection.

During his address, Tim Loughton emphasised the need for equity in treatment between pilot training and other forms of tertiary education. He stated, “If you are on a pilot’s training course, it’s little different from another form of tertiary education, and yet it’s treated completely differently than if one were training in other expensive fields such as medicine or law.

Photo: Greg Rosenke

One proposed solution to enhance student protection is enabling payment by credit card. However, Loughton pointed out that many flight schools do not accept credit card payments, leaving students with the challenging task of paying substantial sums upfront.

Loughton’s efforts to address this issue extend beyond his parliamentary speech. He has successfully secured a meeting with the noble Baroness in the House of Lords, the specific Minister responsible for Aviation. This meeting, to be attended by representatives from BALPA signifies a significant step towards driving change in the industry.

In a statement released by BALPA’s Interim General Secretary, Miranda Rackle, she stressed the absence of public funding for pilot training. She highlighted the devastating financial consequences students face when flight schools go bankrupt. With pilot training being among the most expensive of all professions and no student funding available, many trainees resort to family support, including remortgaging family homes. Rackle called on the government to step up and protect these students who are so vital to the future of the UK aviation industry.

In this clip, Tim Loughton talks through some of BALPA’s campaign issues:

Watch the debate in full here:

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