Hey, my question is, is it possible for an American to work for a foreign airlines in Europe, Middle East, or Asia? For example Emirates, Qatar, or Lufthansa. I know there are are great airlines in the USA but I am curious if that’s possible, if it is is it easy?
Asia and the Middle East yes and it’s relatively easy. Both Asia and the Middle East allow for an easy license transition and are also very liberal with their work rules. Europe not so much. If with all your licenses and ratings the Europeans will require you to pass their 14 exams and getting work permits is also a huge challenge.
Is it best for an American to get on with American majors for a while before trying to relocate to Asia? Just in case you ever want to come back? On another forum, someone was saying you shouldn’t go fly in Asia too soon because it will screw you over if you ever wanted to come back to fly for an American major. Also, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from people flying in China. What about Korean and Japanese airlines? Have you heard anything about how they treat their employees? Are there any airlines over there that are comparable to American airline employee happiness?
As someone who has lived in Japan and familiar with Japanese work life I can tell you that the general corporate atmosphere will be very different compared to US-based airlines. You can expect a much more serious, rigid, and often exhausting style of work over there. I’m not sure how that will apply to you in the cockpit, but if the office enviroment is any indication, I wouldn’t want to fly for a Japanese airline. (Also there might be language requirements) Keep in mind that in most developed countries, airlines can’t sponsor an immigrant for a work visa. This is true for the US, and most of Europe. That being said, I’ve heard of Americans going to fly for Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines etc.
I’m not an airline pilot, but purely based on my previous research and talking to friends in the airlines, seniority is not something you want to take lightly or just give up. Most pilots will lock into an airline and fly for that airline until they retire. If you switch airlines half-way through, you start from the bottom together with all the new-hires. Seniority is everything - at least in the US carriers.
EDIT: I just realized your username is laowai lol… If this is about going home and being closer to family - and you’re not doing this as a temporary gig, then sure go ahead. Just keep in mind, you’ll be missing out on that seniority if you decide to come back to the US.
That’s my biggest dilemma right now. I love living in Asia and had my sights set on eventually flying in China. But then I read a lot of horror stories and it seems like American majors are the best place to work and I would be stupid to not take that opportunity. I guess American forums will of course be skewed toward American airlines. I’m just wondering if there are any super legit Asia based airlines so I can compare apples to apples. I know it seems early, but it all starts with choosing the right regional to set you up on the right path for the ultimate goal so it is something I have to start researching already. Especially with some of these companies allowing you to apply after private.
What’s the probability of eventually being able to have a consistent West Coast USA to HK, Tokyo, Seoul, etc route once I have seniority?
I’m so happy you noticed my name. I never thought anyone on this forum would recognize that lol. I’m actually a white American grew up mostly in Vegas, relatively fluent in Mandarin. I was living in China from 2013-2016.
Ok thanks, is there any advantages if you go to a foreign airline?
With the right amount of experience, you can probably get a job pretty easily in the middle east or Asia. There are reasons for this though as the working conditions are not very favorable to the pilot. It is almost impossible to get a job in Europe, they preach about how open they are, but the reality is that they are very closed when it comes to pilot jobs.
It will take many, many years before you are able to consistently hold Asian flying. It is doable, it is just going to take a long time. It isn’t that this forum, or any other, is skewed towards American airlines and flying, the reality is that the working conditions and contracts in the US are dramatically better than just about anywhere else in the world.
You’d be wasting a great deal of time and energy making it to a US Major than moving on to an Asian carrier (btw, you make it sound like getting to a US Major is an easy thing, it isn’t). No you will not be viewed any different if you started at one and then returned. In fact it would probably make you look worse since you quit a perfectly good US carrier to go to Asia and then returned after you didn’t like it. If you want to fly for an Asian carrier than that’s what you should do (and no there are no language requirements) but yes it is VERY different than flying in the US. I’m with Hawaiian and a good number of our pilots are former JAL, Korean Air, Cathay and ANA. I’ve yet to hear anything positive regarding any of them. I also have a few friends working in China and yes it’s worse over there. No unions and therefore no protections. Pilots get fined for mistakes or violations and I know pilots who were literally brought to tears during training. I recently flew with a former Korean Air pilot who said he quit simply because he couldn’t handle the stress the airline put on him. He lived in constant fear of termination.
Your call and yes I can see the allure as I love flying to Asia but I’d do it as a US pilot.
Thanks Adam. This is definitely the vibe I was getting from the forums. Sounds like my best bet is to get in with an American airline with a good amount of asian routes like United and possibly delta. I definitely want to work for an airline that treats me well. I just hope I can get the best of both worlds and spend a decent amount of my time in Asia. Unlike most pilots, I would prefer to be gone a lot. I know a great deal of pilots would like routes that keep them close to home to the most. But I don’t have any family or other obligations and would like to travel more than being home every night. Is this possible with seniority at a US major?
You’re right Chris. I definitely value QOL over everything else. I just hope the major I finally fly for gives me the opportunity to travel internationally a lot.
Another question to try and go off the previous thing I had asked: say I know I ultimately want to work at United bc of all their Asia routes, but I have an opportunity at Southwest. Is it best to leave the regional and go to southwest and just keep applying to United, or I should hold out at my regional until I can get hired at the major I ultimately want?
These are big boy decisions only you can chose what’s best for you. While SWA isn’t a legacy carrier they’re a great airline with some of the best work rules in the industry and their pilots get paid very well. Even their first year pay is comparable or better than most Regional Capt pay. I’d say if you can get on with SWA early enough then by all means but if it takes a while and it’s not where you want to be why return to the bottom of a seniority list for a short stay.
I am a firm believer in going to the first major that wants to hire you. I have personally witnessed pilots stay at a regional because they wanted to wait for a particular major, in this case Alaska. Well, for whatever reason, Alaska never called and they ended up finally coming over to Continental four years later than they should have with many hundreds of pilots now in front of them, an absolutely awful career move.
It is great to have a goal, but don’t pass up a golden opportunity along the way.
All of the legacy majors have significant international routes.
You might find after flying international for awhile that domestic flying is much easier on your body and in many ways more enjoyable. Or you may love international, there seems to be two distinct groups of pilots out there.
I see where you’re coming from, but a career with southwest would guarantee a strictly domestic flight pilot career right? So later on if you decided you absolutely want to fly international you would have to switch companies right, forfeiting your seniority? Do you know off hand, is southwest part of any alliance? Do the travel benefits only cover the US or they have international partners?
On that same note, I know most people never switch companies once they join a major, but let’s say they did. Would a person applying for a United or delta spot from say jet blue or southwest first officer position look better than a captain from a regional?
SWA’s travel is strictly US only BUT if you’re simply looking to travel, as a pilot you can jumpseat or pass travel on virtually every airline in the country for free or at a steep discount through various agreements.
Opinions may differ but I’d say you look worse coming from SWA then coming from a Regional. Training pilots is expensive and if your goal is United then you’re simply using SWA as a steeping stone. You’ve spoken of your affinity for Asia and possibly flying for a foreign carrier. Who’s to say you’re not using United until Cathay calls? Again SWA is a great airline. If I were on the hiring panel at United I’d want to know why you were leaving and why you felt it was fine to “use” SWA for your own greed or career advancement? Regionals it’s known that pilots aspire to move on, Majors it’s suspect. The good thing is you have MANY years before any of this is anything more then academic. By then the picture should be clearer or the decision might be moot.
SWA fly’s internationally to:
Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos
Liberia, Costa Rica
San Jose, Costa Rica
Turks and Caicos
My bad, but you know what I meant