Luton women pilots cannot afford to have children – that is the stark message from a meeting of angry pilots and their Euro MP Alex Mayer.
They are calling on UK airlines to improve maternity pay as almost all only provide the absolute statutory minimum maternity pay provision.
This hits young female pilots hard. All pilots have to pay for their flight training upfront and to do so take out training loans with high street banks of up to £100,000 normally repayable over ten years, including when on maternity leave.
Ms Mayer heard from a local pilot who said she had done calculations and decided she just could not afford to have children – her training loan repayments plus rent – would be more than her maternity pay. In addition pilots have little choice in their base and often live away from family support networks.
Other horror stories from the trade union BALPA include women having to choose between moving from their house or having an abortion.
Ms Mayer is calling on airlines to make the job of being a pilot more family friendly. Statutory maternity pay can mean pilots taking a 90% pay cut. She is backing calls for full pay for the first 26 weeks maternity leave and half pay for the remainder of their statutory maternity leave.
Ms Mayer said: “If you jet off from Luton airport chances are you will have male pilot. Because only six out of a hundred planes are flown by a woman. One way to help fix this disparity is to fix the issue of maternity pay. For some the current situation means delaying having children, taking shorter maternity leave or giving up on having a family all together. If airlines are serious about attracting more women pilots they should say yes.”