The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) has slammed easyJet’s announcement of 330 new full-time pilot jobs as “spin”, arguing that the company is merely switching current pilots to different contracts.

EasyJet said last week that it would be offering new permanent first officer positions across all 11 of its UK bases, and that the recruitment drive is part of a new career structure to provide cadet and first officer opportunities for pilots.

However, Balpa told Travel Weekly that easyJet’s announcement was “extremely disingenuous”, because no new pilots were being hired, and the move simply shifted contractors onto permanent positions following growing pressure.

Jim McAuslan, Balpa general secretary, said: “Pilots – and we believe the travelling public – still want to know if a pilot is good enough to fly for easyJet, why is that pilot not good enough to be on a permanent and reasonable contract?

“EasyJet has been dragged kicking and screaming by Balpa into offering a permanent contract to some of its growing casual pilot workforce. 

“But, despite the spin in today’s easyJet announcement, this ‘take-it-or-leave-it’contract is being denounced by pilots across easyJet.”

The airline has said its new reshaped career structure provides cadets with the opportunity to gain experience and flying hours followed by a new entrant contract for experienced first officers, which in turn leads to a long-term career and the opportunity to become a captain.

The airline said pay scales ranged from a starting ‘total reward package’ of £40,000 for a cadet to £54,000 for a first officer and up to as much as £146,000 for a captain.

However, McAuslan said Balpa has been “inundated with concerned young pilots, desperate for a job and experience, who will still have to put up with two years on a zero hours contract and uncertain lifestyle”.

“And, because of their £100k loan repayments, these pilots will take home less than a McDonalds employee,” he said. “And this from a company that is knocking on the door of the FTSE 100 and is hugely successful with a management team rewarded as such.”

He added: “The most interesting reaction to easyJet’s announcement isn’t the concern of the young pilots, but the anger of the longer-serving and experienced pilots who are outraged at the treatment of their new colleagues.

“Little surprise that the vast majority of them are proud to be a pilot, but few would now recommend it as career under easyJet conditions.”

An easyJet spokesman disputed Balpa’s claim that the airline disingenuously implied it was creating new jobs, telling Travel Weekly: “We were very clear that they were new permanent jobs. These new permanent roles will be filled in the first instance by pilots employed by easyJet’s aviation training partners CTC and Parc.

“We have already had a number of pilots who have accepted these offers. In our view, the response from pilots is that these are reasonable terms. The evidence to date is that people have signed up to them.”

EasyJet also queried Balpa’s comment on pilots being offered zero hours contracts.

“None of these pilots will be contracted zero hours,” said EasyJet. “They will work intensively in the summer, less intensively in the winter, but we guarantee them 200 hours in the winter season. We are creating certainty for these young pilots coming through and the prospect of promotion to captain.”