In a distressing turn of events, unsuspecting pilots who eagerly embraced the opportunity to become flight instructors in Saudi Arabia find themselves entangled in a nightmarish situation. This troubling scenario unfolds at the Oxford Saudia Flight Academy in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and warrants attention as it sheds light on the challenges faced by pilots seeking career advancement in the aviation industry.
Amidst Saudi Arabia’s ambitious aviation plans, epitomized by the recent launch of the Riyadh air project, the country is keen on cultivating a robust skills development pipeline. However, the dark side of this vision surfaces at the Oxford Saudia Flight Academy, which lured pilots worldwide with promises of up to 80 flight instructor positions and enticing monthly salaries ranging from $5000 to $6500.
For pilots, particularly those from regions where airline salaries are comparatively lower, this opportunity seemed too good to pass up, prompting many to abandon their current positions. However, the journey took an unexpected turn upon arrival in Saudi Arabia. The promised opportunity involved transitioning to a DA40 aircraft, requiring additional flight hours akin to obtaining a private pilot license.
The first blow came in the form of a drastic reduction in the initially promised salary, plummeting to a mere $2100 per month. Quitting in disappointment isn’t a straightforward option, as exit from Saudi Arabia necessitates an employer-approved exit visa. Those fortunate enough to secure this permission face a coercive tactic – signing an acknowledgment of debt ranging from $80,000 to $90,000 to cover the DA40 conversion. Failure to pay this exorbitant amount leaves pilots trapped in a nightmare.
Adding to their plight, pilots at the Oxford Saudia Flight Academy have endured over three months without payment. Legal and diplomatic avenues have been pursued among the diverse group of pilots representing various African nations. Yet, solutions remain elusive, rendering these pilots effectively trapped in a dire situation.
This article serves a dual purpose – a cautionary tale for those navigating opportunities in the aviation industry and a heartfelt plea for assistance to those in positions to intervene and address the plight of these pilots stranded in Saudi Arabia.