The Chinese demand for travel has skyrocketed in recent years, which has in turn increased the need for experienced pilots to fly the tourists to their destinations. Some airlines want more pilots badly enough that they are offering salaries of $300,000 and above to foreigners. That’s a lot better than you can do elsewhere.
China’s airlines, which include Qingdao Airlines and Sichuan Airlines, are contacting as many pilots as they can, reports Bloomberg. Qingdao, which is a regional carrier, is offering as much as $318,000 a year. Sichuan, which travels to Canada and Australia, offers $302,000. Comparatively, a commercial senior-level captain’s salary tops out at around $209,000 in the United States, according to Bloomberg.
Sometimes, it’s not even the big and well-known airlines that are paying handsomely. Little-known startup airlines are paying close to 50 percent more than what some senior captains are making at Delta.
Demand in China is so high that its airlines need to hire about “100 pilots a week for the next 20 years.” Basically, there’s an unlimited need for pilots right now. International recruiters, from the U.S. to New Zealand, are given pretty much free rein to fill cockpits.
Along with lofty salaries, some recruiters offer signing bonuses, overtime pay and contract-completion payouts. One recruiter said that a monthly paycheck of a pilot who he signed at Beijing Capital Airlines was $80,000.
Eighty thousand dollars a month. Did your jaw just drop? Because mine sure did.
Aviation is booming in China, where the number of airlines has increased 28 percent to 55 in the past five years. The fleet has more than tripled in a decade to 2,650, according to the Civil Aviation Industry Statistics Report.
The growing ranks of low-cost airlines favor single-aisle jets such as the A320, which can seat about 180 people. With passenger numbers in China increasing 11 percent last year, carriers are scheduling more flights to handle demand. And that requires more captains.
Offering a fat paycheck is the only option for the newest carriers because they have minimal brand recognition and a limited performance record, said Liz Loveridge, who’s responsible for China recruitment at Rishworth Aviation in Auckland. Chinese airlines are paying as much as five times more than some Asia rivals for new hires, she said.
“They can’t attract people through any other means,” Loveridge said. “They think money’s the only answer.”
However, such rapid expansion seems to be outpacing the bureaucratic hoops that people have to jump through in order to start flying in China. The documentation, the work permits, the immigration and the medical insurance processes can still take up to two years to clear before a pilot can begin work.
Hiring foreign pilots is also seen as a social advantage. “Some of the airlines see some value in having a Western accent in the cockpit,” a recruiter told Bloomberg. “They’ve got the experience.”
Well, if you’re an Uber or a taxi driver and you’re tired of the threat of autonomous cars, maybe a new career is waiting for you in China.