British Airways’ first ever female pilot says she is “disappointed” that airlines offer such “poor” maternity leave terms.
Lynn Barton, who broke through the company's glass ceiling in 1987, told the Telegraph airlines must stop paying “lip service” to being diverse and “realise the error of their ways”.
At present nearly all airlines, including British Airways, offer six weeks' maternity leave at 90 per cent of pay – the statutory minimum.
The Telegraph revealed British Airways “gagged” a group of its pilots who wanted to talk about the issue to Parliament.
Ms Barton praised the “brave” women who tried to hear their voices heard.
She said she was “very surprised ” when she found out how limited airlines’ maternity policies are, which can put women off the career.
“I had no idea how poorly all the major airlines were doing,” she said. “I hope they realise the error of their ways, get their act together and say – this is not good enough, chaps.
“You can’t just pay lip service to trying to be an equal opportunities employer, you’ve got to clean up your act.”
She said the debt most pilots accumulate to afford the tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of training make it even harder for female pilots who want to start a family.
They also struggle with childcare when feeling forced to get back to work after six weeks.
Just 4.6 per cent of pilots are women, according to the latest data from the Civil Aviation Authority.
Ms Barton said she is “very disappointed” the proportion of female pilots is so low more than 30 years after she became British Airways’ pioneer. Part of the problem is young girls “ruling themselves out” of a career as a pilot.
“I am quite saddened by it,” Ms Barton, who is now retired but had a “lovely career”.
“British Airways always said it wants to employ the best of the best,” she said. “If half of the your population rules itself out before even applying, you can’t get the best of the best.”
Last month Balpa, the pilots’ union, organised a meeting in Parliament for about 30 pilots from different airlines to highlight "grossly inadequate" industry-wide policies. Before the meeting, British Airways wrote to Balpa banning BA pilots from telling their stories at the meeting.
A spokesman for British Airways said: “We, like the majority of UK airlines, offer industry-standard maternity pay for our pilots. We are proud to have the most female pilots of any UK airline.“