$300,000 tax free? Try flying a plane in China!

Hey, so I was reading this article from CNN stating that Chinese airlines are offering huge pay packages to tempt foreign pilots as demand for air travel balloons. According to CNN, china is especting to hire 4.000 to 5.000 new pilots each year for the next two decades, to get this many pilots hire, Some carriers are advertising salaries of more than $300,000 a year and they say they’ll cover the tax bill, too. Chengdu Airlines boasts that it offers the “highest pay in China” at $25,800 a month with a $36,000 bonus for completing a three-year contract. But, Surprisingly this salary ($300,000 a year) is espected to keep going up because chinase airlines are still struggling to hire pilots to fly their brand new jetliners. Now with this information, I know is hard not to accept this heavenly proposal coming from china, but personally I wont care how much I make as a pilot, as long as a get paid properly, If I were a pilot I alrady would have had achieve my dream of flying. Also, I won’t chang my culture and move to a over polluted country. Still I would think twise only because of the enormous pay…Now, this is my opinion Im not a pilot just YET. I would like to hear the opinion of the pilots of this forum, is the $300,000 a year an unthinkable proposal to not accept for today and future pilots?

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Hi Jasson,

This is nothing new and I’m very familiar with the prospects of flying in China. Not only do I have a few friends over there (one of whom was featured in a tv news presentation years ago) but I was actually scheduled to go for an interview in Shanghai a few years back. Obviously there are pros and cons, the biggest single pro being the money.

A little background, back when I was at ExpressJet, Tianjin airlines was looking for EMB145 Capts. I had just gotten downgraded due to airline cutbacks so the thought of going to China for a few years and making some big money sounded very attractive to me. I actually studied very hard for the license conversion written and paid to have the circling restriction removed from my license which was a requirement for the conversion. About a week prior to my scheduled flight I had an argument with the recruiter (I asked a question regarding my scheduled return and he responded that us American pilots were “difficult and had bad attitudes”) and I decided not to go.

As I said I know a few pilots who did go. A few remained and are still there getting paid very well and a few left after their initial contract (3yrs) was up. If you ask any of them “how’s it flying in China?” they will all respond “I’m getting paid” and not much else. So what’s the problem? A few things. First as you pointed out is the pollution. Don’t know if you’ve ever been but depending on the time of year, winds etc it can be bad, VERY BAD! I was actually these 3 weeks ago and it was scary. Visibility was min which makes the flying challenging but besides that as soon as we descended into the smog layer you could smell and feel it. Everyone had masks on and after just one day I could feel it in my chest. It’s also very common for the other pilots to smoke on the flight deck, all day long. Another issue is yes you’re going to get paid but you’re going to work for it. China actually has stricter rest and duty rules than the US but they’re not enforced. There’s no unions so if you try and fight or object you have no recourse and the contracts all have penalties for non-compliance. The fact there’s no union also comes into play when it comes to other things as well. Bust a training event? You’re gone. Your seniority will hold upgrade but will you? Maybe? If for some reason they don’t particularly like you the answer is no. Don’t like it? Leave. The list goes on but I think you get the idea.

When all is said and done would I go? Honestly if I were a young, single pilot I probably would for a few years. Make some cash, come home debt free with a type rating or 2. Not too bad a deal but remember everything comes at a price. Your call?



Yes adam I agree, maybe I could be that young, single pilot and fly in china, I think 3 years is more than enough $$$, but like you said eveything comes at a price. Thanks for your respond!


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