We’re encouraging more females to apply for our Future Pilot Programme

Over the past two years, we’ve been recruiting candidates into our fully-funded Future Pilot Training Programme. We’re currently taking applications for a new intake (closing date 8 July 2019). Although the programme is extremely popular, the application rate among females is only around 7 percent. In an effort to encourage more women to consider a career as a pilot, we commissioned research into the perceptions of young people on this issue.

Around 10 percent of Aer Lingus pilots are women – on a par with, or slightly ahead of airlines across Europe. Nevertheless, we’re keen to encourage more women into pilot careers. The purpose of our research was to investigate why applications among females are low and to help us develop a strategy to boost female pilot recruitment.

The survey showed a low level of awareness that the Aer Lingus Future Pilot Training Programme is fully funded. Only 19 percent of respondents were aware of this fact (21 percent of males and 16 percent of females).

The Red C survey was conducted among 500 adults, aged 18-30, 350 of which were female and 150 male. Scroll down for the key findings.

Learn more about the Aer Lingus Future Pilot Programme

Picture shows Aer Lingus Director of Operations and former pilot, Davina Pratt alongside First Officer Edel Murphy

Here are the key findings:

  • Males are significantly more likely to consider and to be advised to pursue a STEM career than females (50% of males vs. 31% of females), whereas females are more likely to be advised to go into education (34% of females vs. 18% of males).
  • Twice as many males as females initially considered a career as a pilot (6% of males vs. 3% of females). Only a fraction of these were advised to go into the role, and less than 1% actually made a career of it.
  • The role of a pilot was discussed significantly more with males in schools/colleges than with females. 19% of males discussed the role of a pilot with their career guidance counsellor vs. just 8% of females.
  • While school guidance counsellors are used most often as a source of information on careers, word of mouth from family, friends and contacts are considered the more influential sources of information for young adults when deciding on a career path.
  • ‘Not for me’ was the most cited reason for not considering a career as a pilot. For females the other top mentions include not believing they had the necessary skills (40%), not being brought to their attention as a possibility in school/college (35%) and working unsociable hours (33%). For males, the perceived financial investment is the main barrier (35%) with just 26% believing they don’t have the skill set.
  • Females are significantly less likely than males to believe a career as a pilot would suit them, and this gap is particularly evident among ages 25-30; 51% believe they would suit the role of pilot vs. 27% of females in the same age group.
  • The most important factors in any future career for young adults is doing something they enjoy (97%) and something they are good at (97%), but just over half of respondents believe a career as a pilot could deliver on these factors.
  • Just 1 in 3 young adults believes being a pilot would allow for a good work-life balance, a career consideration which is extremely important to them (95%).
  • A gender divide is evident in terms of the attitude towards the role of pilots with females more likely to agree that there are too few female pilots (79% female vs. 45% male) and that the role is not female friendly (33% female vs. 19% male). That being said, a significantly higher proportion of males (71%) feel the career is inaccessible to the average person (61% females).
  • Once the programme is detailed, 35% of females are interested in the Aer Lingus Pilot Training Programme, with males marginally ahead at 43%.
  • All of the propositions from Aer Lingus to encourage more female pilots were well received by the female respondents, most notably an open day at Aer Lingus with female pilots to promote the career to females in secondary schools.


Davina Pratt is currently Director, Operations at Aer Lingus. Davina is a former Chief Pilot at Aer Lingus – the only woman ever to have been appointed to that role globally. Speaking about the research, Davina said “Aer Lingus has always been keen to encourage more women to become pilots, but our survey shows that there is still considerable work to be done to promote the career to women and to address some of the myths that exist. For example, regarding work-life balance, maths and STEM qualifications, and the funding of pilot training at Aer Lingus. But primarily, when it comes to encouraging more women to come forward, this survey tells us that we need to get out into the schools and colleges to promote flying as a career for women as it simply isn’t top of mind and isn’t being actively promoted to them as a career option currently.”

“I myself have had a very rewarding career as a pilot. While it’s a great honour to have been the airline’s first and only female Chief Pilot, it would be great to see more women coming into the profession and reaching the same heights. I would encourage females to consider applying now to be part of Aer Lingus’ latest recruitment drive.”


Learn more about the Aer Lingus Future Pilot Programme here