Real Answers from Real Pilots

Working for an Asian Airline

Hi everyone,
As I have been considering a career in aviation, I have heard a lot about a pilot shortage. From the research I have done, the greatest demand for pilots is actually coming from Asia causing them to try and recruit American pilots. I’ve heard about experienced pilots going to work for different Asian airlines for much more money than here. Considering the cost of training is so expensive, would a pilot fresh out of ATP’s career pilot program be able to make more money working for an Asian airline than a regional in the U.S.?

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Hey Ethan,

I haven’t done much research about flying overseas. I would be surprised if
you could find a job with the experience level of an ATP grad. I knew one
pilot that went down that route but he waited until he met his ATP minimums
(FAR 61.159). I think you’re going to need to do a little more research
about how the process works and get back to us with what you find.

Also consider the fact that most regionals in the US are offering signing
bonuses and tuition reimbursement (for ATP instructors). That’s all extra
money to help pay off your tuition.

Lastly, when choosing an airline to work for, make sure you think about
quality over quantity. Sometimes the airline that’s willing to pay the most
isn’t necessarily the best/safest airline to work for.

Ethan,

Like Tory said, you will need more than just your CFIs to work for any airline, regardless of what country they are located in. There is very much a pilot shortage right here in the US, the regionals are dying for pilots. I would also argue that major airline pay in the US is better than at foreign airlines, although many foreign airlines would trump US regional airlines in regards to pay.

Chris

Most foreign carriers will require you to have more than the ATP 1500hrs. A lot of pilots go overseas from the regionals to make some quick money and build time, then transition back to the States when they get on at the Majors. Some stay forever. The carriers I’ve had experience with also require 500-1000 hrs in aircraft over 44,000 lbs (think CRJ/ERJ).

I’ll disagree with Chris on pay a little, Capt vs Capt if you compare the whole package (Pay with little or no taxes, free housing, free private school, free medical) it’s pretty easy to match the pay of Legacy Airlines in the US.

You have to weigh everything, a lot of pilots can’t hack how different living overseas can be. Six years was my limit.

Zac is correct. I actually have a few friends who’ve been flying in China for quite some time. First, there really isn’t a pilot shortage in Asia, there’s a CAPTAIN shortage. The Capt does the bulk of the flying making it difficult for FOs to upgrade so you have a situation where there are a TON of FOs who don’t have the flight time to upgrade. That’s the reason if you check the recruiting sites they’re looking for Type Rated pilots with time in Type.

For years the Asian carriers paid considerably more but over the last few years that’s fortunately changed. Other than the tax advantage the US carriers are right there. Factor in no union protection and the work conditions and it’s no longer that attractive.

Adam

I’m a helicopter guy switching to Fixed Wing, I used to live in Asia and I really want to go back as a pilot, not my previous career when I was there. I speak Chinese, a bit anxious or excited about betting a career on picking up PIC time at a US regional for a few years and then making the jump to China, TW, JPN, or Korea. Are expat pilots still commanding that high pay they did when your friend went? Are pilots making a long term career of it? I’m 33. I’d love to hear one’s thoughts on this good, bad, and ugly but from someone who knows about about Asia flying and isn’t just guessing.

Josh,

The pilot shortage is severe in Asia as far as I know (mainly China). The problem is while the foreign carriers are still paying well, the US carriers have come up considerably which has given many US pilots second thoughts about going. I have one friend who’s still there and is happy, the rest have returned. It’s really what works best for you.

Adam