China, Taiwan carriers woo Indian pilots

05-Dec-2016 Intellasia | Business-standard | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Rakesh Kapoor, a senior pilot with a leading domestic carrier, was pleasantly surprised when he got an offer in his mailbox, to fly a Boeing 737 in China. Leading Chinese carrier China Southern Airlines offered an attractive financial package, along with accommodation, domestic help and an interpreter for personal use.

“The offer was very lucrative, about $300,000 per annum and that is purely tax free. You can’t think of making that much money at my level in India,” said Kapoor, who has not made up his mind about the offer yet.

There was another offer from Taiwanese carrier EVA Air, which is promising a faster career progress from first officer to captain, or Vietnam Airlines offering roster of choice and upgrade to wide body plane from narrow body.

With a fast increasing fleet size, airlines from the region are doing everything – from better salaries and lucrative perks to reduction of required flying hours for upgrade. Even a few years ago, Indian pilots were not welcome in the airlines of these countries.

“A firm recruiting for Air Japan in India has reduced the eligibility of first officers in B-767 to 500 hours from 1,000 to get more people,” said a pilot who has been approached by the firm.

“Airlines in China, South East Asia, India, Africa, Latin America and East Europe are finding it extremely hard to hire and retain talent. This is worrying. A select few airlines in China and South Asia have gone as far as to offer salaries of nearly $27,000 a month after tax or about $324,000 a year, tax free, to retain a pilot,” said Mark Martin of consultancy firm Martin Consulting.

According to an analysis done by the firm, starting 2016, on an average, 1.5 of 10 pilots will reach retirement and this is expected to spark a major demand for crew, apart from safety levels and standards being momentarily stretched.

Air traffic in the Asia-Pacific region will increase four times in the next two decades, industry estimates suggest. That makes it the world’s busiest market. With booming passenger traffic, airlines in the region are increasingly expanding their fleet. According to market forecast by manufacturer Boeing, Asia will lead the chart in terms of new orders, comprising more than half of the total.

Even regional carriers, barely known abroad, are offering 50 per cent more than what some senior captains earn at the likes of IndiGo, Air India and SpiceJet to fill their cockpits.

“I was astonished to find a mail from a headhunting firm for Sichuan airlines. They offered a pay package of $200,000 with a reimbursement of my personal travels. That is something even senior pilots of domestic carriers hardly get,” said a senior pilot of SpiceJet.

Pilots said the lucrative pay package was meant to attract people who are unwilling to shift China and Taiwan because of the cultural differences. “It’s not easy to work there; there is a difference in work culture, environment and language… A first officer is sometimes expected to carry the suitcase of the captain,” said a pilot working for IndiGo.

Gulf carriers in the late 1990s started poaching Indian pilots after their expansion in the country. “The trend is similar but it’s very different from working for the Gulf airlines, which have a cosmopolitan environment,” said the pilot.


Category: Taiwan

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