Baltic Air: Striking UK and US pilots picked up by Chinese Airlines

Source: Baltic Air

This recent release from Baltic Aviation Academy explains the difficulties currently faced by UK and US pilots, and how many are finding the answers in the booming Chinese economy.

Recently the billow of aviation personnel strikes worldwide has flooded news portals once again. The highly frustrated Air Canada pilots say they may be forced to stay at home to seek stress relief or look for jobs elsewhere now that the new back-to-work legislation prevents them from striking amid a labour dispute. Some pilots have stated they will no longer attempt to conserve fuel during the flights or keep other costs down, the reports.

Three labour unions representing the ground staff at Air France have called/declared a strike on Friday, 30 March. Air France recorded a net loss of €809 million in 2011 with the cargo division turning in an operating loss of €60 million from its cargo business. In addition to immediate economic measures, such as a freezing pay and recruitment as well as closing the loss-making routes, the CEO of Air France  Alexandre de Juniac is looking to re-shape the working practices at the airline ahead of implementing major structural reforms in June. As a result, it is ’creating considerable concern with regard to the future of the company and jobs,’ the unions denounce.

About 30 Kingfisher pilots, whose salaries have now been overdue for four months, have confronted the airline’s chairman (of the board) Vijay Mallya. They expressed their concerns about flying with their minds preoccupied with personal financial distress and pointed out that it was a serious a safety hazard. The debt-laden national carrier’s Air India pilots are threatening to go on strike from April 2 too.

An unexpected twist in China

As worldwide carriers are struggling with the sluggish economic conditions, downsizing staff or filing for bankruptcy, Chinese airlines are seeking to benefit from the situation by hiring foreign pilots with the United States and Europe as the primary target markets.

A month after the Spanish carrier Spanair SA had filed for voluntary bankruptcy, Shen Wei, the deputy general manager of the Shanghai-based Spring Airlines, hopped on a plane to Spain, hoping to recruit the experienced pilots who had lost their jobs.  After holding interviews he made offers to 30 foreign captains at once.

While Shen was in Spain, nine other Chinese airlines were recruiting pilots in the US. From Feb 20 to 28, two job fairs were held in Miami and a third one in Las Vegas, reports. The events drew about 850 pilots from the US, Mexico, Europe and South America.

Precaution, not unemployment

‘Many of the pilots who attended the job fairs were not unemployed. Some came because they were attracted by the Chinese culture, but most came because they were worried about their existing jobs,’ said Robin Li, the general manager of Wasinc International, a pilot recruiting company branch in China.

‘It had happened to many pilots who had lost a job in a downsizing and landed a second job, only to find the second employer soon filed for bankruptcy. They want a stable job, and China, with its surging economy, can provide that,’ he added.
As a result, instead of driving away only jobless pilots or first officers, poor dialogue with troubled personnel may cost the airlines their top performers – experienced captains that simply want stability in their careers and secure future for their families.

Growing numbers

According to the forecasts made by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the number of pilots nationwide will rise from 24,000 to 40,000 in the five years ending 2015. The expectations are based on the fact that the civil aviation fleet expands by (on average) 11% annually.

The ICAO reports that in 2011 international traffic (flows) increased by 7.4%, a little bit less than the previous year. However, there was a strong demand in the business and leisure travel sectors, particularly in the emerging markets. Domestically, in 2011, markets grew by 4.9% more than in 2010, thanks to an estimated 10% increase in demand for the domestic air travel in China.

Foreign pilots will indeed come in very handy for the Chinese air companies that continue acquiring new aircraft and expanding their fleets, at least until they keep lagging behind in cultivating their own captains. And that is not going to change for at least another 3-5 years. The bigger is the supply, the better are the conditions for the pilots. However, if you are a flight director, beware that your best personnel might get tempted by the Chinese Dragon.

We would gladly hear your opinion on the topic. Do not hesitate to contact us via emailing to arrange a discussion.

Source: Baltic Aviation Academy