Pilot incomes plunge as coronavirus forces flight cuts
Published: Mar 23, 2020 09:22 PM

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The coronavirus crisis has given a severe blow to the aviation industry, not only bringing a decline to the airlines' passenger turnover, but also to pilots, whose income has declined sharply.

An anonymous pilot from one of the three top Chinese airlines told the Global Times that his salary has been slashed by two-thirds since January.

"My biggest part of my income is from flying hours, but that part has gone to zero as more cities in the world lock down, and flying becomes impossible," he said.

"In January, my colleague was able to fly 80 hours per month with the A330, but that quickly dropped to 15-16 hours in February," he added.

He is not the only one to see income crater. The pilot said many of his colleagues have seen their incomes fall by even half, and some foreign colleagues started to take unpaid leave from late January.

Official data showed that during the 40-day Spring Festival period, the aviation sector transported 38.39 million passengers, a decline of 58.6 percent from the corresponding time last year.

A captain surnamed Zhao working in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, said he does not have any flights this month, and most of his colleagues flying the A330 have only flown 10 hours this month.

Financial reports showed that passenger turnover of the three major airlines - Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines - fell by more than 80 percent in February. 

Regulators said in February, the civil aviation industry suffered a staggering loss of 24.59 billion yuan ($3.46 billion), of which airlines lost 20.96 billion yuan, the largest loss in a single month.

Zhang Wu'an, spokesperson of budget Spring Airlines, told the Global Times on Monday that the company has no plans to cut staff although the performance of the company has not been getting better. 

But the good news is that the Chinese aviation industry has seen a slow recovery among domestic flights. The Hainan branch of China Southern Airlines said it has resumed nearly 200 flights between Haikou and Sanya cities in South China's Hainan Province.

A pilot surnamed Zhao said the work hours for his colleagues who fly the A320, the model mainly used for short-range domestic flights, is slowly getting back to normal, they now fly 60 hours per month, compared with 90 to 100 hours three months ago.  

Zhang from Spring Airlines said there will soon be a recovery in the domestic market, but it will take one to two more months for the recovery of international flights.