For the vast majority of airlines and air operators in Canada, pilots are required to complete aircraft type specific training in order to be qualified to operate that aircraft. This training can be an expensive proposition, often requiring the pilot to attend hours of ground school and simulator training. If the pilot then finds other employment, the airline is forced to find another pilot and pay additional training costs.
To remedy this, many airlines have instituted a ‘training bond’. A training bond is a contract between the employee pilot and the employer air operator indicating that the pilot will have his or her training paid for (and his or her accommodations paid for during training), but only if he or she remains with the employer air operator for a minimum amount of time. The bonds can take different forms with some requiring pilots to pay for the training up front and then be reimbursed on a pro-rata basis, while others do not require the pilot to pay any money up front, but require the pilot to reimburse the airline on a pro-rata basis if they leave their employment before the minimum time period.
These bonds are quite controversial. In 2005, the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) made a Submission to the Federal Labour Standards Review Commission proposing that training bonds be prohibited or have specific restrictions apply to them. In a February 2009 Discussion Paper on the Review of Labour Standards in the Canada Labour Code, it is recommended that training bonds be permitted but regulated.
Courts have generally found that training bond agreements are enforceable legal contracts, and will look to the specific terms of the actual contract to determine any amounts owing. In one case, the terms of a training bond contract resulted in an operator recovering only pure training costs and not travel, hotel and uniform expenses. As with any contract, both air operators and pilots must carefully look at the specific terms of the contract to ensure that they have an accurate understanding of possible future consequences.