Interview with direct entry pilot Laura Bennett

It was a long-time career goal of First Officer Laura Bennett’s to work as a pilot with Aer Lingus. A recent Direct Entry Pilot recruitment programme made that a reality.

Pictured at the Aer Lingus brand reveal in front of an Airbus A330 freshly painted in the new aircraft livery are from left First Officer Niall McCauley;First Officer Laura Bennett; First Officer Paul Deegan

Aer Lingus (EI): Why did you decide to become a pilot?

Laura Bennett (LB): I can’t say there was one reason in particular, but from a very young age, I always told people that I would be a pilot when I grew up. My fascination with airplanes, helicopters, airports and anything aviation-related grew stronger every year. It was this fascination and interest for aviation that has brought me to where I am today.

EI: How did you eventually become a commercial pilot?

LB: After leaving school, I was encouraged to go to college to complete a degree. At the time, flight training wasn’t something that was yet firmly in my plan. On entering the 3rd year of my degree, I took up a role in a large accounting firm for a temporary work placement. Two days into my placement I realised that my interest in aviation had not subsided.

A week later, I took my first flying lesson in Weston Airport. The hardest thing for me was to concentrate on completing my degree before continuing my flight training. I researched every possible option to complete my training, which included applying for the Aer Lingus cadet programme.

Fortunately, Weston Airport is very close to home for me. Shortly after graduating I began a full-time integrated course at the National Flight Centre in Weston Airport. The course included written ATPL exams and all flight training, CPL, MEIR and MCC in Ireland, all of which was completed within two years.

My first airline job after training was with Ryanair, where I spent 3 years, mainly in Dublin after first spending some time based in Spain and Scotland.

EI: What attracted you to a career in Aer Lingus?

LB: As our national carrier, it’s always been a career goal to join Aer Lingus, At some points, I almost thought that goal wasn’t achievable. I have distinct memories as a child of seeing the shamrock on the Aer Lingus aircraft, and it’s still symbolic for me today.

Aer Lingus now has a huge international presence, continuously expanding its route connections from Europe across the Atlantic to the United States. The career opportunities within the airline are extensive and professional growth is encouraged from the very beginning. The prospect of flying many transatlantic routes, while still being based at home in Ireland was a career path I wanted to take, and one which only Aer Lingus can offer.

Over the last few years, with the addition of several new transatlantic routes and the addition of the A321LR aircraft to the fleet, increasing the frequency on some of these routes, Aer Lingus is showing a sustainable growth in a very challenging and competitive industry.

EI: What can you tell us about the application process?

LB: The application process for Aer Lingus consists of an online application, after which, if you meet the criteria, you’re invited to do online assessments. If you are successful with the online assessments you will be called to an interview day, which includes group and individual interviews and assessments.

Persistence pays off! Between applying for the cadet programme and then direct entry positions it took me three attempts to get to the interview stage. The best part of the whole process was the day I got the call offering me the job 🙂

Aer Lingus A320 on the west of Ireland

EI: Which aircraft do you currently fly, and do you have ambitions to fly other types? 

LB: Currently, I’m flying the A320 and A321 aircraft. I’m about to complete my training on the A321LR in the next few weeks and I expect to fly these aircraft for the foreseeable future. However, with the expansion that Aer Lingus is experiencing at the moment, I’m hoping to transition onto the A330 fleet late next year, giving me the opportunity to move fully off the short haul operation and onto the long haul operation.

EI: How would you describe your lifestyle, living and working in Ireland?

LB: I’ve been living with my partner in Dublin for the last three years. As we’re both in the aviation industry, it’s nice to be based at home and to be able to spend time off together when we can. For fun, I try to keep fit. I do a lot of boxing and go to the gym and I see my family regularly and walk my dogs. I enjoy eating out and catching up with family and friends when I can.

I’ve made some great friends since starting in Aer Lingus and I know these are friendships which will continue to grow in and out of the workplace.

EI: Do you have any advice for potential candidates?

LB: Never give up! Aer Lingus wants to see your ability, dedication and passion to be the best airline pilot that you can be. Show to them a desire to a part of an expanding team of professionals in an internationally recognised airline.

To learn more about our direct entry pilot careers click here. The direct entry pilot recruitment campaign is open until, 7 November 2019.


(This article was updated on 30 October to reflect a new closing date for applications.)