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What to expect from the aviation job market in 2024

2023 has been yet another challenging but interesting year for those working in aviation. In this article, we reflect on the aviation job market of 2023, and how it’s going to shape the future in 2024. We provide direct insights from our Operations Manager, Dean O’Sullivan, who brings 10 years' worth of experience in the field. Dean draws from his experience as a former trained pilot as he takes us through the 2023 aviation job market. In addition, he forecasts what lies ahead in 2024 for those working in the industry.

Addressing the Staffing Shortages

In 2023, aviation encountered numerous challenges impacting both recruitment and retention for aspiring and existing candidates respectively. Aviation roles continued to be in demand, placing increased pressure on airlines to bolster their hiring strategies. From Licensed engineers to pilots, flight attendants and  operations staff, airlines had a big task ahead of them as they tried to fill their talent pipelines. 

Highly Recruited Aviation Roles: Top Contenders of 2023

1. A320 Crew

Male and female pilot walking in an airport

As airlines expanded their A320 fleet, crew recruitment took priority. With air travel demand continuing to increase post-pandemic, airlines sought type-rated pilots and cabin crew to ramp up their numbers and meet demand, as was evident in the ACMI market. To secure talent, we saw more competitive salaries, benefits, and career progression opportunities in 2023 for our A320 crew.

2. B737 Crew

Similarly, recruitment efforts for B737 crew members intensified due to the number of airlines that have these aircraft in their fleet, with a particularly high demand for Captains in 2023.

3. B1 Engineers

B1 engineer recruitment was also a balancing act between high demand and a limited talent pool.  The ramifications of the pandemic had seen many licensed engineers take early retirement or move to alternative industries that offered a more stable work environment. The shortage of B1 engineers continued in 2023, a trend which is likely to continue well in to 2024 and beyond. 

4. Operations Controllers

The aviation industry faces an entry-level gap for operations controllers. Candidates must have communication proficiency and resiliency, crucial traits in navigating the dynamic challenges of the role. Although entry-level positions are easier to fill, the demand is mainly targeted towards highly experienced operations controllers, and those are much harder to find.

5. A330 Crew

As with A320 and B737 crew, we saw increased demand for A330 crew recruitment in 2023, which again saw the airlines presenting enhanced packages to candidates in a bid to secure the talent they needed.

6. Airworthiness Engineers

Aviation Engineer

The shortage of airworthiness engineers posed a significant challenge to the aviation industry in 2023. These professionals play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and compliance of aircraft. 2023 saw a great number of them approaching retirement, which led to many airlines seeking replacements. The lack of entry level candidates entering the field also creates a future talent gap that the industry is not yet fully addressing.

7. Cabin Crew

Airlines focused on improving recruitment strategies, offering competitive benefits, and training programmes to attract cabin crew candidates. Cabin crew retention continues to be an issue which has prompted many airlines to revamp their recruitment strategies and focus more on employee experience.

8. B2 Engineers

Increased air travel demand led to increased aircraft maintenance needs. Airlines, MROs and operators all competed for a limited pool of qualified B2 Engineers. While securing B2 engineers wasn’t smooth sailing in 2023, proactive recruitment efforts and competitive packages helped to address the shortage to a degree.

B747 Aircraft

9. B747 Crew

Despite the phasing out of many B747s, a demand for type-rated crew members persisted in 2023, driven by the specialised nature of these aircraft. The shortage was particularly noticeable among Captains and First Officers as airlines sought those with extensive experience on the iconic jumbo jet.

10. Rotary Pilots

Demand for Rotary Pilots stepped up in 2023, but training costs and competition can often deter candidates from pursuing this career path. Some sectors compete with the armed forces, who offer subsidised training and attractive career paths, leaving commercial helicopter sectors like offshore work and utility services understaffed.

Boosting aviation recruitment: A direct perspective

Dean O'Sullivan AeroProfessional's Operations Manager

An interview with Dean O’Sullivan, Operations Manager at AeroProfessional.


With over 10 years’ experience in the industry, Dean has built a strong reputation for helping clients across every sector of aviation identify the best talent for their business.


His team works globally to provide unparalleled recruitment solutions across a vast range of permanent and contract roles, delivering the best possible outcomes for both candidates and clients alike.  


We interviewed Dean to better understand what the aviation job market looked like in 2023, after experiencing three years of losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it is expected to grow in 2024. 

Tell us a bit about your background, what made you decide to work in aviation recruitment?

I have had an interest in aviation since I was a young child. I think most will agree that the aviation bug is a hard one to shake off. My education was actually through my pilot training, which I completed over 10 years ago. Since then, my career has gone in a different direction. However, my pilot training experience gives me a huge advantage as it allows me to walk in the shoes of most of our pilot candidates.

How would you assess the state of the pilot market in 2023?

Invigorated. The aviation industry has flourished despite ongoing challenges, such as geopolitical tensions in different regions and supply chain issues from OEMs and MROs, among others. There has been an unprecedented need for skilled pilots, translating into an unprecedented demand for pilot training programs. The resilient growth in the face of these challenges showcases the industry's adaptability and determination. 

In what ways have you observed the pilot-demand supply dynamics in 2023?

The pilot demand dynamics have been very evident. While each region has been affected differently, most are positioned at various points along the same trajectory. The US, in particular, seems to be leading this trajectory. US airlines have introduced unprecedented terms and conditions to both attract and retain experienced pilots. While not quite as pronounced, Europe has witnessed comparable trends, mainly in the A320 market, where airlines publicly compete for talent within the same pools. 

How did those dynamics impact the decision-making process for candidates in 2023?

I think it had a positive impact overall. Firstly, it allows candidates to make decisions, which wasn't necessarily the case 2-3 years ago. The resurgent aviation industry will instil confidence in those considering entering the field. Candidates undoubtedly had, and still have, more choice than ever before. Instead of accepting any role offered by an airline as they might have done previously, they are now empowered to make a decision based on factors such as career progress, work-life balance, and other benefits. Airlines are already adapting to this shift. 

Have the changes you’ve seen in the aviation industry in 2023 affected Europe and the UK in the same way?

I think the trends are very similar but not identical. Brexit has significantly insulated the UK market. Airlines in the UK are not only competing to attract talent, but they must also ensure that those people have UK licensing and the right to work, adding further challenges for them. It comes as no surprise that British Airways recently completed the recruitment of 100 cadets for their new Speedbird programme. This serves as a clear indication of the seriousness of the long-term outlook and the planning required to overcome the hurdles ahead. Long-term recruitment planning is crucial for airline success. 

Considering the challenges mentioned which affect certain regions, such as restrictions on the right to work and pilot training timescales, how can these factors be addressed to better

support the aviation workforce in 2024?

First Officer in the cockpit of an aircraft

British Airways is not the only airline that publicly acknowledges the importance of long-term planning. This is mainly done through career progression and improved benefits, which are highly advantageous for pilots. Several of our clients have hired non-type-rated cadets this year, several others have launched MPL programmes, and some are now expediting command upgrades and CCQ options onto widebody aircraft. 

What, in your opinion, are the key considerations for candidates navigating the current state of the pilot market, especially in regions experiencing high demand?

In a nutshell, pilots should carefully consider their career goals when applying. Currently, we are in a unique situation where they have the flexibility to choose from a variety of airlines in numerous locations. Since each airline may have slightly different offerings, it is crucial for pilots to identify the best fit for them. Candidates should also approach the application process with respect for the airlines. Pilot recruitment is an expensive undertaking, so pilots should only undergo assessments for the airlines they genuinely intend to consider. 

Considering the observed increase in terms and conditions for flight crew, how do you foresee this trend affecting the overall job satisfaction and loyalty of pilots to their respective airlines?

I think we will see a positive trend in 2024, for both job satisfaction and loyalty. It's fair to say that the intense competitiveness of 2023 may not be sustainable, leading to a plateau in the pilot recruitment sector. The improved terms and conditions, and career progression are likely contributors to increased job satisfaction, promoting greater loyalty among pilots, who may start feeling less compelled to move on frequently.

What's trending in 2024?

Aircraft landing

After a dynamic 2023 in aviation, 2024 anticipates an even greater demand for skilled aviation talent. The industry's rapid evolution and recovery from global challenges, including the Covid-19 related early retirements have intensified the need for aviation professionals with diverse expertise. From pilots and engineers to air traffic controllers and aviation management roles, the demand is multifaceted. This time however, we expect airlines to invest more in employee retention as they improve their candidate packages and work to enhance the overall employee experience they offer. As a result, aviation employees will feel less inclined to leave their roles, which will in turn minimise the airlines’ need for intense recruitment.  

Looking for work in aviation?

Every year we help hundreds of individuals find rewarding new roles within the aviation industry. Working across the full spectrum of aviation recruitment, from cabin crew and pilot roles, to engineering and head office opportunities, we provide an end-to-end service that matches you with the right role, in the right organisation. 

The AeroProfessional team are specialists in the recruitment and selection of aviation professionals across the globe. Reach out to the team today to discuss your current hiring challenges and gain the expert advice and guidance you need to ensure your hiring strategy gains maximum success in 2024.


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