Pilot Black Hole: More and More S. Korean Pilots Are Heading for China

It has been found that an increasing number of South Korean pilots are moving to Chinese airlines to the point of threatening domestic aviation safety.

These days, Chinese airlines are siphoning off thousands of pilots a year from all around the world with their inland flight demands skyrocketing. According to Boeing, China is likely to be in need of 111,000 new pilots until 2035 and account for 40% of the global demands for new pilots for the time being.

Under the circumstances, major Chinese airlines and Chinese low-cost carriers are trying to persuade South Korean pilots to join them by proposing an annual salary of approximately 300 million won, which is almost double the amount they are paid in South Korea. During the past three years, 128 and 58 pilots moved to Chinese airlines from Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, respectively. More than 275 South Korean pilots in total did so during the period.

South Korean airlines are recruiting multiple foreign pilots in order to fill the vacancies. For example, 85 and 23 foreign pilots joined Korean Air and Asiana Airlines in 2016 alone, respectively. Likewise, flight attendants who retired in Europe are joining them one after another. In addition, those companies are attracting an increasing number of air force pilots who fulfilled their mandatory service for 15 years.

Things are much worse for low-cost carriers in South Korea. They have recruited co-pilots from major airlines as pilots but more and more of them are moving to Chinese airlines nowadays. Besides, the recruiting war is intensifying along with competition among themselves.



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