SEOUL, March 28 (Korea Bizwire) – Data shows that the number of Korean pilots who are currently accepting jobs at Chinese airlines has increased.
Kim, a pilot who moved from Korean Air to a Chinese airline two years ago, commented that Chinese airlines choose safety as their priority and pay their pilots more money than airlines in Korea.
He also said that Korean pilots are popular in China, as they speak better English, have accumulated more flying hours, and have similar cultural backgrounds.
The explosive growth of the Chinese airline industry has boosted the demand for pilots, with 50 Chinese airlines contacting foreign pilots and offering them high salaries and generous benefits. Since 2014, chief pilots have been transferring to Chinese airlines and co-pilots to low-cost carriers (LCC), where they can be promoted to chief pilot in a short period of time.
Kim answered that he decided to transfer to a Chinese airline not just because of the money, but because of the working conditions. “It was hard to tolerate the small salary, which was lower than the international average, when the company thinks that navigating an aircraft is easier than driving a car. Once I experienced dozing off during a flight after being assigned a deadly schedule that didn’t consider the pilots’ health, and I felt like I had no choice but to transfer to a place with a better work environment.”
While pilots in Korea are paid about 100 million won a year (after taxes), pilots in China make between 250 million and 300 million won, with salaries based on how many times they fly. Korean pilots in China usually work 20 days a month and take 10 days off.
Kim expects that the number of Korean pilots transferring to Chinese airlines will increase greatly in the near future. “The number of Korean pilots at the airline I work for is increasing rapidly. Also, many pilots are negotiating with Chinese airlines to transfer.”
He also said that Chinese airlines appreciate the pilots’ services, and pay them high salaries. “Safety always comes first. If the chief pilot makes a decision considering the safety of the passengers as a priority, they are not questioned even if financial loss might occur”, he added.
Although Chinese airlines are currently scouting foreign pilots, they are also in the middle of training thousands of new pilots every year. In Korea, it costs at least 70 million won for training to become a co-pilot unless one is trained in the military. However, training costs are covered by the airlines in China.
According to Kim, Chinese airlines select and educate those who wish to become pilots. Once graduating from piloting schools, they observe the cockpit for one or two years as ‘assistant co-pilots’ before taking the controls. If a pilot transfers to another airline, the new airline pays the remaining education costs to the previous airline.
Kim warns that if the Korean system doesn’t change, the number of Korean pilots will decrease due to high training costs, and the harsh treatment they get afterwards. “Airline companies in Korea might be forced to bring in pilots from China in the near future”, he says.
By Francine Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)