In 1965, an aircrew specific pension system was implemented. It allowed pilots to retire as of 55 years old or after a 30-year long professional career (whatever came first) and provided them with a double pension ceiling. This double ceiling was never adapted to the living cost (index), while the regular pension ceiling did. The term "double" therefore did not reflect the reality anymore (in 2011 it was around +58%). It is important to note that this system was self-financed by the sector and was in balance (even more in 1995, as the system showed a bonus of more or less 100.000.000,- euro). Indeed, the employers' and employees' additional contributions broadly covered the retired pilots' pensions.
The distortion of real figures and the Sabena's bankrupcty had a big impact: the number of pilots flying for Belgian companies fell off, which decreased greatly the contributions brought into the system and a lot of pilots over 55 retired after losing their job, although they wished to continue flying. At this time, this system appeared to be in deficit and became the target of repeated attacks, the culmination being the reform of the pension system proposed by Mr Van Quickenborne in 2011. With the suppression of specific pension systems in the private sector, regardless of the physical condition of the individual pilot, the retirement age of new pilots increased by 10 years (from 55 to 65) and the duration of their careers by… 15 years (from 30 to 45 years, which means + 50%!).
In 2012, BeCA's "Pension Working Group" worked in close collaboration with the cabinet of the Minister and the National Pension Office (Office national des pensions - Rijksdienst voor Pensioenen) in order to find an appropriate solution. The result of this work was the adoption in 2012 of the Royal decree (NL and FR) that guaranteed acquired rights for the contributions that had already been paid.
Simultaneously, our Working Group continued working on an alternative pension system specific to aircrews, with the objective of implementing a system in balance, financed by the sector. The unilateral decision of some companies that stopped contributing to a sectoral pension ruined the project before its start - the non-payment of contributions represented some big potential savings for the airlines. In some companies negotiations with their employees are still ongoing on how to recuperate this loss in social rights.
Since 2012, BeCA has been reporting the unrealistic prospect of a pension at 65 (or even 67) for all pilots: atypical working hours, long duty hours, jet lag, cockpit pressurisation, noisy environment, medical constraints (as of 60, an airline pilot must pass an examination twice a year instead of once a year and can only fly with younger pilots), performance obligation (every pilot must prove their professional competences every six months in a simulator session).
Therefore, BeCA calls once more for the adoption of a pension system for Belgian airline pilots that is adapted to the physical, medical, intellectual, legal and safety constraints of the profession. We want this system to be financially autonomous and cost-free for the State. In one word, we want to recreate a solidarity for those of us who will not be able to reach the legal pension age.