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Here's how the pandemic has impacted young aviation professionals

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The aviation sector has put a mass hold on hiring following the devastating effects of the pandemic
The aviation sector has put a mass hold on hiring following the devastating effects of the pandemic   -   Copyright  MChe Lee / Unsplash
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Empty classrooms, a little-used hangar: due to the current health crisis, the apprenticeship training centre (CFA) for air professionals at Bonneuil-en-France has had to limit onboarding any new learners.

The training courses for flight attendants and stewards have come to a complete standstill, and courses for airport reception staff have been reduced to the bare minimum. The aviation sector is no longer hiring, but some young enthusiasts are clinging to hopes that one day their dream careers will get off the ground.

What's happening in the aviation industry?

Aviation companies are having to cut jobs - thousands of them. Airbus has plans to let 15,000 staff go, and Air France plans to cut 8,500 jobs. Air traffic was down two-thirds globally in 2020, according to the International Air Transport Association, and it does not expect to return to 2019 levels before 2024.

How has it impacted young professionals?

At the CFA centre near Paris's Bourget airport, where learners train in mock airport cabins, the seats for passengers are now empty and there are no attendants.

Most of the 8,000-square-metre (86,000-square-foot) facility is silent. In a vast hanger that holds a Falcon business jet and a Super Puma helicopter for technical training, just a couple of dozen students are busy at work benches.

Making the traditional welcome speech at the start of the academic year in this very unusual year "was a bit touch and go", said instructor Pierre-Henri Greze. "Most of the students are concerned, anxious about the future," he added.

Véronique Flavigny, director of the CFA for aviation professions in Bonneuil-en-France, expands, "I understand all the more the concern of these young people who were with us in training that if they don't practice, they will lose their accreditation. We hope that air transport will resume, so that they themselves can keep this accreditation and practice the profession they dream of doing."

The number of apprentices at the start of the 2020 academic year was down by half, to just 300, with the courses for flight attendants at a complete standstill as airlines shed cabin crew jobs to match the vastly reduced number of flights they are operating. The mechanic and technician students are down by a third.

Some students remain hopeful that one day, their dreams will take off.

Karl Alonzeau, an apprentice aeronautical mechanic, describes how, "I've always liked aeroplanes, it's since I was nine, ten years old, I only want to do it, it's really a passion.

"It's going to start all over again one day, I hope, at last, we can't know... When it starts again, we'll apply and see."

Marotea Archer, an apprentice from French Polynesia, reinforces this positive attitude. "You mustn't give up and give your all. Maybe in two years' time the company will need some strength and will recruit us."

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Video editor • Aisling Ni Chulain