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ASL meets increasing demand with AeroProfessional’s intense B747 pilot recruitment, amid pandemic and Brexit-related challenges

Find out how we supported ASL Belgium with their aviation recruitment needs


ASL Aviation Holdings is a cargo operator that was founded in 2008 in Europe. The company operates on a global scale with individual airline AOCs based in Ireland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Hungary, UK and Australia. It also has additional associate airlines in South Africa, Thailand and India. Due to its increasing global presence and accelerating demand, ASL was under great pressure to ramp up its operations to keep pace. With a rapidly growing cargo demand reaching top levels in the midst of Covid and the Brexit transition period, ASL sought the specialist help of AeroProfessional to increase its B747 pilot headcount, and continue its flight schedules at their Belgian base.


In 2020, the aviation industry encountered two significant challenges; the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK’s post-Brexit transition period. The pandemic lockdown forced passengers to cancel travel plans, leading airlines to temporarily cease operations. However, air cargo experienced a surge in demand, primarily driven by the increased need to transport PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to countries worldwide and the heightened online shopping habits during lockdown. Amidst these challenges, recruiting pilots for B747 aircraft posed an additional difficulty due to the aircraft’s specialist nature which required great experience and skill. In response to the rising cargo demand and the need for qualified pilots, ASL initiated a rigorous B747 pilot hiring process to maintain its operations.


AeroProfessional is a recruitment consultancy that specialises in aviation. With its extensive recruitment experience, and large network of aviation candidates from different sectors, AeroProfessional has managed to build a trustworthy reputation, and become the number one recruitment partner for airlines. Its services cover a global scope, enabling airlines from all over the world to fill in their talent pipelines, improve their operations, and overcome any obstacles in their hiring process, especially during times of crisis such as Covid and Brexit. 


To sustain its operations and respond to the rising demand, ASL sought assistance from AeroProfessional to navigate the unsettling recruitment atmosphere, ensuring the airline could secure enough B747 pilots. AeroProfessional played a crucial role in searching and selecting enough candidates to place in ASL’s base in Belgium. AeroProfessional’s efforts were also focused on helping UK pilots retain their licence validity in the EU and secure their social security benefits before the Brexit transition deadline of 31 January 2020. Additionally, AeroProfessional made travel arrangements for pilots who needed to travel to Belgium to attend simulator sessions, all while ensuring compliance with the new Covid reality.


The pandemic disrupted numerous airlines, leading to significant operational challenges and widespread layoffs of pilots and other aviation personnel. AeroProfessional swiftly responded to this crisis by collaborating with two major airlines to assist pilots facing redundancy. Recognising the urgent need to find alternative employment for these pilots, AeroProfessional facilitated their transfer to ASL, ensuring they could continue their careers without interruption. In addition to assisting pilots affected by airline layoffs, AeroProfessional also engaged with BALPA (the British Airline Pilots’ Association) to identify and support more pilots seeking new job opportunities. By leveraging their connections and expertise, AeroProfessional ensured that pilots with the appropriate qualifications and Type-Ratings were matched with positions at ASL and other carriers.


With Covid-19 becoming increasingly challenging, restricting travel and movement, AeroProfessional managed to arrange transport for chosen candidates. This enabled them to attend interviews and simulator sessions in Belgium for ASL, while complying with the lockdown regulations in force. All pilots followed a thorough assessment preparation that AeroProfessional organised, ensuring that they performed to ASL’s high standards. Meanwhile, as the Covid lockdown restrictions were in effect, all of AeroProfessional’s employees coordinated these efforts while working from home full-time for the first time.


The UK's departure from the EU posed a risk to the validity of UK pilot licences in Europe, potentially endangering the positions of ASL's newly recruited pilots. To mitigate risk, AeroProfessional collaborated closely with ASL and the pilots to convert their UK licences to EASA ones. This crucial step ensured that the pilots could legally work at their base in Belgium and without any issues in the long run. Moreover, AeroProfessional used established contacts and liaised with the appropriate Belgian authority to resolve the work permit and visa issues, safeguarding the rights of ASL’s UK pilots to live and work in the EU while retaining their social security benefits after the Brexit transition deadline.


Despite the uncertain employment climate and a series of lockdown restrictions, which added to the difficulty in finding highly experienced B747 pilots, AeroProfessional achieved an 80% success rate in its recruitment efforts for ASL. Additionally, AeroProfessional effectively coordinated talks with other airlines to release pilots facing redundancies due to Covid. This facilitated their consideration and transition into ASL, enabling the airline to move faster in their recruitment process and respond to the rising cargo demand.


The AeroProfessional team successfully coordinated the travel arrangements of pilot candidates to Belgium for their simulator tests with ASL, ensuring the candidates’ safety and compliance while travelling during Covid. AeroProfessional was instrumental in the pilots’ interview and assessment preparation, maximising their chances for successful hiring, and reducing any additional assessment costs for ASL. The airline was pleased with the level of commitment involved in keeping the recruitment process running smoothly with minimal impact from Covid-19.


AeroProfessional also played a pivotal role in navigating Brexit challenges for ASL by engaging with stakeholders and regulatory bodies, including the Belgian authority. Through this close collaboration, they resolved visa and work permit issues for UK pilot hires, ensuring peace of mind for ASL, and eliminating future regulatory hurdles for their business. ASL appreciated the efficiency and support it received from AeroProfessional, overcoming unprecedented challenges that could have otherwise put a significant strain on its operations.

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It has been extraordinarily challenging, given the circumstances of delivering to the needs of our client ASL. But through our commitment to both ASL and the pilots involved in the process, combined with our market knowledge and continued perseverance, we were able to overcome all challenges presented to us. It was a great success and demonstrates our team’s ability and determination to deliver results, even in the face of such unprecedented adversity.

Sam Sprules
Managing Director at AeroProfessional

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