If a unique and first-of-its-kind secondment option between the two airlines is approved, British Airways pilots might soon be based in the Persian Gulf city of Doha and operating planes for Qatar Airways.
Pilots at the Heathrow-based airline have been approached to see whether they would be willing to work for Qatar Airways for six months during the winter season of 2021/2022 when flights out of London are projected to be at a seasonal standstill.
According to an internal document, up to 40 Boeing 777 pilots will be able to fly the planes on behalf of Qatar Airways. Captains and First Officers would be given equal opportunities.
The talks between the two airlines are still in their early stages, and BA warns that there are “substantial difficulties” involved that might prevent the secondments from taking place.
If the two airlines can reach an agreement, the pilots will be temporarily relocated to Doha. Their contracts and seniority would be kept, and they would be paid by British Airways.
Pilots would, presumably, continue to be subject to British tax regulations under such an agreement.
Although the pilots would be at ease on a Boeing 777 flight deck, it is unclear how much training they would require to get familiar with Qatar Airways policies and procedures, as well as additional training for different routes than they are used to.
British Airways has informed pilots that they will be “integrated” into the Qatar Airways operation and will operate alongside flight crew employed directly by Qatar Airways.
Qatar Airways owns 35% of British Airways’ parent corporation, and the two airlines are members of the Oneworld alliance. During a cabin staff strike in 2017, Qatar Airways wet-leased numerous short-haul aircraft and crew to operate flights on behalf of BA.
During the epidemic, both airlines dramatically decreased the size of their respective workforces, but demand for pilots is likely to climb rapidly over the next year, putting pressure on smaller airlines that are unable to attract or keep enough pilots.