Foreign pilots cash in on Chinese airline boom

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail CRI, August 20, 2016
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For foreign pilots looking for sky high salaries maybe Chinese airlines are the answer.

32 year old Giacomo Palombo is a former United Airlines pilot. In an interview with the financial media company Bloomberg, he revealed he was being bombarded every week with offers to fly Airbus A320s in China. Regional carrier Qingdao Airlines is offering as much as $318,000 a year. Sichuan Airlines, which flies to Canada and Australia, is pitching a salary of $302,000 each year. Both airlines offer to cover his income tax bill in China.

Today he works as a consultant for McKinsey & Co in Atlanta, but he says – if he is ever tempted to go back to flying - he will definitely consider the lucrative offers from Chinese airlines.

The average annual salary for senior pilots at major U.S. airlines such as Delta is only $209,000, according to the latest data from Aviation Consulting.

The demand for experienced pilots in China is colossal. Recruitment agencies often ask carriers how many pilots they need, to which the answer is almost always, "as many as possible".

China's booming aviation market and a shortage of experienced domestic pilots have contributed to the large demand, and consequently the fat paychecks foreign pilots can receive.

That rampant aviation market is fuelled by the rapid rise of the Chinese middle class, who have increasing amounts of money to spend on luxuries such as tourism.

The numbers of airlines cashing in on this growth in China has also increased by 28% to 55 in the past 5 years. The number of aircraft they operate has also tripled in the past ten years to reach 2,650, according to Civil Aviation Industry Statistics Report.

China's cabinet, the State Council, has also promised to build 500 and more general airports across the country by the year 2020. The number stood around 300 in 2015.

Experts say that air traffic over China is expected to almost quadruple in the next two decades, and it's estimated Chinese airlines will need to recruit almost 100 pilots a week during that period.

The low-cost airlines sector is also expanding rapidly. These airlines favor smaller single-aisle jets such as the A320, which can seat about 180 people. With a growing number of travelers, carriers are having to schedule a greater number of flights to handle the demand, which in turn requires more pilots.

The lack of domestic qualified pilots has also been blamed on an immature pilot-training process, with many airlines falling over themselves to pay top wages in the scramble to employ the most experienced piloting professionals from overseas.

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