Jul 13, 2016

    S. Korean airlines' pilots take off for China's greener pastures


    SOUTH Korea's flag carriers, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, are losing veteran pilots to their fast-growing Chinese rivals.

    According to the companies, Korean Air lost 46 pilots last year to Chinese airlines, compared to nine combined in 2013 and 2014.

    Its smaller rival, Asiana, said it saw the number more than doubling from six in 2014 to 15 last year.

    Chinese air carriers are pouring resources to attract veteran pilots as they suffer from a lack of experienced pilots amid their fast expansion in recent years.

    Even though some 2,000 to 3,000 pilots are nurtured every year in the country, it takes more than 10 years for them to be trained to become a captain.

    And due to cultural similarities, South Korean pilots are favoured among foreign pilots, industry watchers say.

    Chinese companies dangle generous benefits.

    Pilots with more than 10 years of experience are usually offered an annual salary of 200 million won (S$235,400) to 300 million won, which compares to some 150 million won at South Korea's major airlines.

    There is also a huge difference in flight time.

    In South Korea, pilots are required to fly up to 1,050 hours per year, compared with 850 in China.