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波音737 MAX停飞,外籍飞行员在中国拿30万美元年薪不容易了

Augus Whitley, 彭博社 2019年12月25日

漫长的停飞让一大批原本拿数倍于美国商业飞行员平均工资的职位受到了冲击。

由于中国缺乏经验丰富的飞行员,为中国航空公司执飞波音飞机的外籍飞行员原来可以拿30万美元年薪,外加补贴,并且还能在多份工作中挑挑拣拣。然而,波音737 Max机型的停飞却改变了这一局面。

据招聘机构称,中国的各个航空公司已经基本停止招聘执飞波音主要窄体客机型号的外国飞行员,原因是9个月前,最畅销的波音737 Max客机发生了两起坠机事故,导致该机型停飞。在中国蓬勃发展的航空市场上,中国各大航空公司一直最热衷于购买这款飞机的买家之一,占全球机队的20%(目前已经闲置)。

中国航空公司支付的工资仍然高于市场价格,但漫长的停飞让一大批原本拿数倍于美国商业飞行员平均工资的职位受到了冲击。全球两起致命的坠机事件后,Max机型的复飞还没有明确的时间,中国公司对737系列外籍飞行员的需求已经大幅放缓。目前,中国只有少数航空公司在招聘此类职位。

总部位于蒙特利尔的飞行员招聘机构AeroPersonnel Global Inc.的创始人兼总裁安德烈·阿拉德表示:“中国航空公司已经暂停招募737的飞行员。句号。”该公司自2007年起在中国开展业务。他说:“这些航空公司中有许多原本都下了Max的订单。现在的情形显然改变了他们的计划。”

中国不断壮大的中产阶级让中国在未来十年将成为全球最大的航空市场。对于许多国内航空公司来说,737这样的短途飞机是旅游热潮中的首选。但长期以来,中国一直难以依靠自己的力量培养出足够多的飞行员:截至2016年年底,中国航空公司的驾驶舱中有1000多名外国人,是2010年的两倍。

对外籍737飞行员需求的下降,让世界上薪酬最高的飞行工作(这些工作还附带一系列福利,如签约奖金、教育津贴和免费飞行)大量落到了在中国试水的外籍空客机长的手中。

三重冲击

波音公司在两起导致346人死亡的灾难事故后受到密切关注。去年10月,狮航(Lion Air)的一架航班从雅加达起飞后不久就坠入大海,今年3月,埃塞俄比亚航空公司(Ethiopian Airlines)的一架飞机在亚的斯亚贝巴附近坠毁。

Max的悲剧并非唯一原因。中国经济正在放缓,与美国的贸易争端已经进入第二年。作为一家美国航空制造商,位于芝加哥的波音公司处于这场争议的中心。

中国是首个禁飞Max机型的大国。3月以来,Max飞机一直被禁飞,波音一直试图修复该机型的飞行控制系统——两起空难都与此有关。美国航空监管机构在12月表示,要到2020年才能够完成所需的审批手续。即便那时,Max可能也要花上几个月的时间才可以交付给航空公司;欧洲廉价航空公司瑞安航空(Ryanair Holdings Plc)在5月前都不指望能够收到货。

招聘公司Wasinc International说,波音公司危机的蔓延已经改变了中国飞行员的命运。公司总裁戴夫·罗斯说,该公司合作的28家中国航空公司中,只有七八家真的在招飞行员。

罗斯在拉斯维加斯接受电话采访时说:“由于Max的停飞,大多数航空公司都人手过剩。”只有一两家公司对737飞行员感兴趣。

波音发言人拒绝就中国对外籍737飞行员的需求状况置评。在中国三大航空公司中,中国东方航空公司拒绝置评,中国国际航空公司和中国南方航空公司没有回复置评请求。

Wasinc的网站表示,东方航空旗下的廉航中国联合航空仍然在招募飞行员,该公司为737机长提供每年28.8万美元的年薪,签署三年期合同。但这是该网站7月以来首次发布中国公司招聘737飞行员的广告。薪酬还包括为孩子在中国学校就读提供每月1000美元的教育津贴。

在Max得到监管机构批准、波音恢复交付之前,这种职位荒不太可能结束。据一位知情人士透露,波音还在考虑暂停生产Max。波音公司网站上的数据显示,中国买家迄今已经收到76架这种飞机,还有181架未交付。

虽然中国市场对737飞行员的需求没有那么迫切,但对空客机长的需求却有增无减。“招聘需求唯一没有太大变化的航空公司是A320的运营商。”罗斯说。

税后31.1万美元

例如,上海的吉祥航空为年龄在30至53岁之间的A320机长提供29.9万美元的年薪。根据Wasinc的数据,该职位仅要求平均每周飞行14小时,包括50天的带薪假期和每月666美元的海外就业津贴。第二个任期内的税后年薪能够达到31.1万美元。

仍然在招聘的中国航空公司越来越挑剔,广州(位于香港西北部)的飞行员个体代理商托尼·刘说。特别是,飞行员一旦在飞行评估中出现了错误,会非常不被看好。

“如果你真的想在这里工作,必须做好充分准备。”刘说,“如果你在模拟器上犯了些错误,他们会非常严格。”

中国也在寻求减少对外国人的依赖。根据中国民航局的数据,截至2018年年底,中国持有商业飞行员执照的人数为61492人。这比2014年的水平高出54%,但仍然不够。据波音公司称,未来20年,中国将需要8090架新飞机,其中大部分是单通道飞机——在这个机型上,波音737和空客A320系列竞争激烈。

波音公司称,中国将需要新招12.4万名飞行员来驾驶这些飞机。这相当于在20年的时间里,每周招聘119名新员工。

Expatriate pilots flying Boeing Co.’s most popular plane for Chinese airlines used to be able to take their pick from dozens of jobs paying $300,000 plus perks thanks to a shortage of experienced aviators there. The grounding of the 737 Max has changed that.

Chinese carriers have largely stopped hiring foreign pilots for Boeing’s main narrow-bodied jet, nine months after two crashes led to the grounding of the best-selling 737 Max, according to recruitment agencies. Airlines in China’s booming aviation market had been among the most enthusiastic buyers of the plane, accounting for 20% of a global fleet that now sits idle.

Chinese airlines still pay above-market wages but the lengthy grounding has hit a swath of roles paying multiple times the median salary of a commercial pilot in the U.S. With no clear time-line for the Max’s reinstatement after two lethal crashes, demand for expat pilots of any 737 variant in China has slowed to a trickle. Only a handful of the country’s airlines are recruiting for such jobs now.

“We’ve seen airlines suspend recruitment of 737 pilots, period,” said Andre Allard, founder and president of AeroPersonnel Global Inc., a Montreal-based pilot-recruitment agency that has worked in China since 2007. “Many of these airlines had the Max on order. That evidently changed their plans.”

China’s growing middle class has put the country on track to be the world’s biggest aviation market in the coming next decade. For many local airlines, short-haul workhorses like the 737 became the aircraft of choice in the travel frenzy. But China has long struggled to produce enough pilots on its own: By the end of 2016, Chinese carriers had more than 1,000 foreigners in their cockpits, double the number in 2010.

The decline in demand for overseas 737 pilots leaves many of the world’s best-paid flying jobs, which come with a suite of perks such as signing bonuses, education allowances and free flights, to foreign Airbus SE skippers who try their hand in China.

Triple Whammy

Boeing is under intense scrutiny following the two disasters that killed 346 people. In October last year, a Lion Air flight plunged into the sea shortly after taking off from Jakarta, and in March an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed near Addis Ababa.

It’s not just those Max tragedies weighing on the sector. China’s economy is slowing, and the country is locked in a trade war with the U.S. that’s into its second year. As an American aerospace manufacturer, Chicago-based Boeing has found itself in the middle of the dispute.

China was the first major jurisdiction to ground the Max plane, which has been banned from flying since March as Boeing tries to fix a flight-control system implicated in both crashes. The U.S. aviation regulator said in December it won’t complete the aircraft’s required approvals until 2020. Even then, the Max could take months to reach airlines: European low-cost carrier Ryanair Holdings Plc doesn’t expect deliveries before May.

Recruiter Wasinc International says the crisis at Boeing has spread to change the fortunes of aviators in China. Only seven or eight of the 28 Chinese airlines on Wasinc’s books are actually hiring pilots, said the company’s president, Dave Ross.

“Most of them are overstaffed because of the grounding of the Max,” Ross said by phone from Las Vegas. Just one or two are interested in 737 pilots, he said.

A Boeing spokesman declined to comment on demand for foreign 737 pilots in China. Of the country’s big three carriers, China Eastern Airlines Co. declined to comment, while Air China Ltd. and China Southern Airlines Co. didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Low-cost carrier China United Airlines, a unit of China Eastern, is still in the market for pilots, offering $288,000 a year to 737 captains on three-year contracts, according to Wasinc’s website. But that’s the site’s first ad for 737 pilots in China since July. The package includes a monthly education allowance of $1,000 for children in Chinese schools.

The drought’s unlikely to end until the Max is cleared by regulators and Boeing can resume deliveries. Boeing is also considering temporarily halting production of the Max, according to a person familiar with the matter. Chinese buyers have received 76 of the jets so far, and are due to receive 181 more, according to data on Boeing’s website.

While there’s less immediate need for 737 pilots in China, appetite for Airbus captains is unabated. “The only airlines hiring without much change are A320 operators,” said Ross.

$311,000 After Tax

For example, Juneyao Airlines in Shanghai is offering $299,000 a year to A320 captains aged between 30 and 53. The role demands an average of just 14 hours flying a week and includes 50 days of paid leave and an overseas employment allowance of $666 a month, according to Wasinc. The pay climbs to $311,000 — after tax — a year in the second term.

The Chinese airlines that are still hiring are getting more picky, said Tony Liu, a self-employed pilot agent based in Guangzhou, northwest of Hong Kong. In particular, they take a dim view of errors during flight assessments, he said.

“If you really want to work here, you have to prepare pretty good,” said Liu. “If you make some mistake in the simulator, they will be very strict.”

China has also sought to lean less on foreigners. The number of Chinese licensed commercial pilots was 61,492 at the end of 2018, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China. That’s up 54% from 2014 levels, but it’s still not enough. According to Boeing, China will need 8,090 new airplanes over the next 20 years, the bulk of them single-aisle aircraft — a category where Boeing’s 737 competes with Airbus’s A320 family of planes.

To fly them all, China will require another 124,000 pilots, Boeing says. That’s the equivalent of 119 new hires every week for two decades.

2018年8月30日,中国空军的新飞行员在吉林长春的中国人民解放军空军航空大学参加人民解放军空军航空开放日活动。

图片来源:YU HONGCHUN—VISUAL CHINA GROUP VIA GETTY IMAGES

AeroPersonnel的阿拉德说,总的来说,海外飞行员在中国飞行五年后,仍然有可能带着100万美元的存款回家。他说,只是空客的机长现在更受欢迎。

“Max机型存在巨大的不确定性。”阿拉德说,“这事似乎没完了。”(财富中文网)

译者:Agatha

 

All told, it’s still possible for overseas pilots to head home with $1 million in the bank after five years of flying in China, said Allard at AeroPersonnel. It’s just that Airbus captains are more in favor now, he said.

“There is huge uncertainty about the Max,” Allard said. “It seems this thing is going on and on and on.”

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