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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Grounded Thai pilot now does motorbike food deliveries

Jack Burton




I have my motorbike, so I found my part time job. And now I am a food delivery man.”

With many of the world’s international airlines grounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, many in the aviation industry, including even pilots, have been forced to find other ways to make a living. Here in Thailand, a ban on international arrivals remains in place, and with domestic air travel currently limited, some aviators have shifted from the skies to the roads, taking jobs as motorbike delivery drivers or as with ride-hailing apps.

One such airman is co-pilot Nakarin Inta, who has been a commercial pilot for Thai Lion Air for about 4 years. He now delivers orders in Bangkok for Line Man, a local food delivery, taxi, messenger and parcel app. For now, Nakarin has traded in the skies for a Scoopie.

“Some airline staff have been on leave without pay. And for most of us, income has been cut by more than 70%. I still have expenses every month, so I had to find something on my own.”

Like in major cities around the world, food delivery service apps in Bangkok have exploded in popularity due to lockdown measures imposed by the government in March. Following the example of a fellow pilot, Inta realised he could generate a small income to support his wife and four year old daughter by delivering food on his motorbike.

“I thought, I cannot just sit here and wait for help. I have to fight for my family. I have to do something.”

The 42 year old always dreamed of a life in the skies but, fearing economic instability in the industry, held back on pursuing that dream for years. But about 5 years ago he decided to go for it. Seeing the rise of low cost carriers in Thailand, he studied for his commercial pilot degree and was soon hired by Thai Lion Air.

“To be a pilot was always in my dreams when I was a child. The best thing is travelling around the world and seeing so many people; I see the passengers smile when I dress up and go to the airport. I see their smile when they meet each other or they’re travelling to their vacation to beaches or mountains. And, more than everything, I can earn money to support my family.”

As a pilot, Inta says he would normally earn between 187,000 and 249,000 baht a month. Now, grounded mid-March, he says making 1,000 a day would be a big win for him.

Inta says he knows of more than 50 Thai pilots, including personal friends, now working as food delivery men, ride-hailing app drivers or food vendors, while waiting to resume their regular jobs. He and his friends have not been laid off, but their salaries are based on their flight assignments.

“I think everybody was impacted by Covid-19, everyone in the world, but look at the one beside you, your loved ones. You have to fight for them and fight for yourself. I miss every moment of my career. I miss my colleagues, my captain, my cabin crew and dispatchers and all the staff since we have worked together as a team for many years. And, mostly, I miss my office in the sky.”

Grounded Thai pilot now does motorbike food deliveries | News by Thaiger



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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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