The airline industry may be one of the final frontiers of gender equality — but that could change with training academies hoping to attract more women to fill the global shortage of commercial pilots.
Pathways towards an airline pilot career are opening up, despite some attitudes towards women behind the controls remaining firmly entrenched in the past.
In June, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, who sits at the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), was embroiled in a sexism row after claiming a woman would be incapable of doing his ‘very challenging’ job.
Mr Al Baker later backtracked on his sexist comments to claim almost half of the airline’s workforce were women, a similar figure to Emirates Airline.
At Alpha Aviation Academy in Sharjah International Airport, every class of students has at least one female trainee pilot, with the academy aiming to ramp up numbers.
“The numbers are still very small, maybe less than five per cent per cent of trainees are women,” said John Coubrough, acting general manager at the academy.
At AAA, an integrated training course will see students go from the classroom to the right hand seat of an A320 jet as an airline first officer/co-pilot in less than two years.
The academy has a partnership with Air Arabia offering graduates a direct route into a career in commercial aviation.
There are currently 22 women from 14 different nationalities out of 190 students training in Sharjah, the 11 per cent figure is more than double the industry representation average.
At AAA’s Sharjah training facility, women from 11 countries, including India, Korea, Germany, Canada and Egypt, are training as the next generation of commercial pilots.
15/07/18 Nick Webster/The National