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Airlines In South Korea Are Losing Their Pilots To China Which Offers Double Pay

By March 30, 2016 at 11:55 pm
Airlines In South Korea are losing their pilots to China which offers double pay and better workplace. In this photo, a Korean Air jet taxis at O'Hare International Airport on September 19, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo : Scott Olson | Getty Images Korea)

Major airlines in South Korea, especially Korean Air and Asiana, are losing their pilots to foreign or Chinese airline companies. Thanks to conflicts between airline management and pilot unions, South Korean aviators get bigger paychecks and better workplaces.

Industry officials said Tuesday, it is feared that the exit of experienced pilots will be accelerated after pay hike negotiations failed at big airlines in South Korea and success stories of pilots relocating to China have emerged. South Korea's two major airlines are losing their pilots to some 50 Chinese airlines, said industry sources.

China is foreseen to create severe pilot shortage since it has a demand for 6,330 new aircrafts over the next 20 years, said Boeing of the United States. The country's airline firms are offering more than double the salary paid by their South Korean rivals.

Chinese airline firms reportedly offer up to 300 or 400 million won ($261k or $349k) to pilots, depending on the aircraft type; while an average pilot-in-command receives about 100 million or $85,763 yearly at Korean Air.

Speaking to Yonhap News, a former pilot of Korean Air identified as Kim, who moved to a Chinese airline company two years ago said he still has no regrets in relocating. "Along with the double wage, (Chinese airlines) tend to put more priority on safety. Following the sharp growth of China's aviation industry, the demand for pilots is also soaring."

He explained Chinese companies prefer South Korean pilots because they have excellent flight capabilities as well as English skills, plus a similar cultural background. However, salary and workplace are not the only factors that made the pilots transfer. "For me, I could not bear (Korean Air's) culture of treating flight control like driving a car," said Kim who apparently referred to a recent comment by Korean Air CEO Cho Yang Ho on Facebook which said: "What pilots have to do is just to decide to go or no-go, but are you saying that it is hard? Flying is done by auto pilot, which is easier than driving a car."

Kim said he decided to move when he nearly fell asleep during a flight due to their busy schedule. The health of pilots was not even considered, he added. According to some pilots, the hierarchical atmosphere in South Korean airlines also caused them to leave.

Kim said Chinese airlines respect pilots and do not question them when they make decisions for safety, even if that means economic loss. Pilots are free to speak their minds, he added.

Airlines in South Korea could be left with inexperienced pilots, due to rapid exit of experienced aviators, Korea Portal reported early this year.

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