Cultural differences when working abroad

Most major Airlines hire foreign flight crew to operate within their business. With not enough pilots to fulfil the demand foreign pilots are able to provide skilled services to airlines. Although engaging foreign flight crew poses some challenges, it also offers great rewards.

In recruiting foreign flight crew, the Airline should consider how to assist the pilot to assimilate into its business and social culture while ensuring the Airline and it’s local workers are prepared to accept those pilots into the business through formal policies such as the promotion of diversity.

Screening assessments

For pilots, the first introduction they might have to their new home or operating base is the pilot screening assessment. The screening assessment is the perfect opportunity to explain any unwritten norms and rules that cannot be found in the company manual or handbook such as stipulating the dress code.

Advise flight crew about any customs or cultural conventions that should be adhered to or avoided. For example, gestures that are common in one country may be offensive in another. Any hints and tips you can provide someone to avoid misunderstandings or embarrassment in certain situations will be gratefully received.

Pilot screening assessments vary around the world and the medical check is perhaps the most notable example of this as some countries do not require a medical check and others include a full physical examination and fitness test. The best way to prepare foreign candidates for this check is to provide as much information about the assessment itself and what it involves. Assume they do not know the norms in your country and advise them accordingly.

Induction and support

When joining an Airline, foreign crews may not know the right way to do or approach things from a cultural perspective so any information and guidance provided during the induction when they join the Airline will be beneficial for both the pilot and the Airline.

One solution is to assign a support person who can be contacted for information and advice. This might be a local pilot or an expatriate pilot who has been with the company for a while and who may have faced the same pitfalls and hurdles that the new pilot might face. The support person will be able to explain the unwritten dos and don’ts within the Airline and provide guidance based on their own and others experience.

Assistance outside of work is something that should also be offered to foreign pilots joining an Airline. The Airline may have a designated member of their team who supports foreign crew members or this may be something that a support person may be able to help with also. This could include assistance with immigration, paperwork and documentation from in-country institutions and accommodation.

Promoting diversity in the workplace

Despite best, efforts there may be some misunderstandings from time to time. To protect your foreign personnel and ensure your Airline continues to work cohesively to achieve business objectives it is important to promote a culture of diversity and tolerance in the workplace to enhance multicultural understanding. Lay out policies to guide workers on expected codes of conduct and behaviour in the workplace and make open communication a priority as well as offering support to your personnel where necessary.


In the competitive global aviation industry, all benefits must be utilised. Although foreign personnel will try to adapt to the culture in which they live and work, they will also bring cultural benefits of their own. A useful example of this is within the CRM environment of the cockpit where flight crew from egalitarian cultures may find it easier to respectfully ask questions and challenge the instructions of those above, offering additional checks and balances to decision making that could have direct benefits to the safety of aircraft operation.


It can be challenging to select pilots who will assimilate well into your Airline and country’s culture. At Wings Recruitment, we know that this is extremely important to ensure a successful and enduring relationship. Before submitting our flight crew and pilots to Wings Recruitment’s Airline Partners, our candidates are interviewed by our experienced Pilot Recruitment Consultants. Our Consultants will ensure each pilot is fully aware of the position that they have applied for and what this will mean for themselves and their families.


Trust us to ensure the best quality pilots are presented to your Airline. Register with us to experience the Wings Recruitment difference.