China is attracting pilots from around the world

Pilots of airliners can earn there 2-4 times more than in the West.
Because of the growing demand for air travel, Chinese companies are actively hiring foreign pilots and investing in flight schools abroad. This increases the shortage of pilots that air carriers have already encountered in other regions.

Chinese Airbom

Last year, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Chinese air transportation market grew by 13% to 549 million passengers; this is twice as much as in 2010. The growth is caused by the increase in the number of middle class, the expansion of the routes of Chinese airlines and the fact that other countries in an attempt to attract Chinese tourists are softening the requirements for obtaining a visa. According to the forecasts of the International Air Transport Associations (IATA), by 2022, China will overtake the United States and become the world's largest air transportation market. According to Boeing, the country will need 110,000 new pilots by 2035, and its airlines will acquire 7,000 new passenger planes in the next two decades.

"The growth of Chinese aviation is unprecedented in our memory and, perhaps, in history," says Paul Gebeli, a Hong Kong lawyer specializing in the industry. "The number of aircraft ordered exceeds the number of pilots available."

But the lack of pilots leads to the cancellation of flights and threatens the profits of airlines and the development of the industry around the world. For example, Ryanair in September canceled 20,000 flights because of problems with a shortage of pilots and excessive workload of pilots. Because of this, the loukoster also had to recognize the unions and agree to their terms of payment, which would increase his spending by 100 million a year, starting in 2019. Emirates was also forced to cancel a series of flights in May due to a shortage of approximately 125 pilots. As the general director of Emirates Tim Clark said, Chinese air carriers offer pilots very generous terms for them to move to Shanghai or Beijing.

According to experts, the shortage of pilots is caused by the increase in demand for air transportation amid the expansion of the business of loukosterov in recent decades. Some also argue that this coincided with a decrease in the prestige and salaries of pilots compared to other industries and an increase in the cost of their training in Western countries.

Conditions in China

The number of pilots and co-pilots working in China almost doubled in 2011-2017. In recent months, the main air carriers of the country - China Eastern, Air China, China Southern and Hainan Airlines - have become more active in hiring pilots and preparing new pilots abroad.

"Chinese airlines have dramatically increased their salaries," says WASINC International President Dave Ross, whose company helps them hire pilots abroad. According to Ross, pilots from Latin America and some European countries can earn four times more in China. As he notes, over the past 10 years in the country the amount of initial salaries offered to foreign pilots and not taxed has grown from $ 10,000 to $ 26,000 per month.

"Some Chinese airlines offer non-taxable salaries that can double the supply of Western companies," said Murray Butt, president of the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA).


Investments in flight schools

Chinese airlines also pay for cadet programs for pilots and try to increase the number of local pilots. But there are only 22 flight schools in China, and because of restrictions on the use of airspace, companies have to increasingly cooperate with foreign schools. Almost half of the 5,053 Chinese trainee pilots in 2017 have been trained abroad, and this is becoming a profitable business for flight schools in the US, Canada and Australia. "Chinese companies are actively acquiring flight schools from Australia and the US to the Philippines and Canada," Jebeli said. "Many owners of flight schools are happy to sell them with a significant premium."

For example, in 2014, China Eastern bought 50% of the Australian division of the flight school CAE Oxford. This year, the company trains 150 pilots there and plans to double their number after investing $ 50 million in the facilities under construction there. "Now the Chinese make up almost half of our students. This means that we can invest in planes and objects that you see here, "said CAE Oxford general manager Mike Drinkall. In total, CAE Oxford has more than 50 flight schools around the world.

The influx of students from China to Australia's flight schools coincided with a 25% decrease in the number of local trainees receiving licenses from civil aviation pilots. This worries the Australian air carriers. "Pilots are not enough everywhere. We were lucky because we are at the top of the food chain, "says Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. "But we are worried that we have to hire pilots from military and small aircraft." We can not continue to do this, otherwise the ecosystem will not survive. "

Therefore Qantas plans to open the largest flight school in Australia in 2019 and train there up to 500 pilots a year. There will be trained not only Australians, but also foreigners, including Chinese, as Qantas wants to benefit from the fastest growing market in the world. "Given the popularity of our brand, this in itself can be a good business," says Joyce.


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