Hainan Airlines, the largest privately owned airline in China, is on a huge recruitment drive to hire 500 foreign pilots by 2020 as it looks to add Australia to its list of year-round routes.
The airline -- whose parent company HNA is a major shareholder in Virgin Australia -- is on the hunt for experienced Boeing and Airbus pilots to captain regular, year-round flights from China to Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland on Boeing 787s, 737NGs, and Airbus A330s.
Hainan is already on target to employ 500 foreign pilots by 2020 and currently has 180 expat pilots on its books with another 60 in the induction phase.
Of its foreign recruits, only four are Australian. However, the airline sees Australia as a key target market and has plans to fly to Sydney and Melbourne 12 months a year as opposed to the seasonal arrangements it has pursued in the past.
Hainan will begin a year-round Xi'an-Sydney service four times a week from September 14 and a Changsha-Melbourne route later in the year.
"Hainan Airlines sees Australian pilots as a target market, as they are well-trained, with good cross-cultural communication skills, and they are perceived to be very capable of adapting to the local culture and flying environment," said Deb White from Longreach Aviation China, a specialist recruitment firm that places experienced aircrew with Chinese airlines.
In its drive for more foreign pilots, the airline has decided not to offer permanent, full-time positions, but rather contract work with large pay packets.
Hainan is offering as much as US$23,000 a month (including allowances) for its vacant captain positions that would equate to an earning potential of up to US$280,000 (AU$363,500) over 12 months. This figure could increase once overtime rates of up to US$300 an hour are added in.
The airline is holding an information session in Melbourne from August 22-25 and another in Sydney on August 29 for interested Boeing and Airbus captains. However, the airline requires that any potential applicants must have a minimum of 500 hours Pilot in Command time on their current type, as well as at least 3,000 hours of total flying time.
Successful applicants will be "fast-tracked" through the recruitment process in China, which can be notoriously slow.
Hainan's push for foreign pilots comes as Chinese demand for international travel is booming. Air traffic over China is set to almost quadruple in the next two decades, with estimates that the airlines from the region need to hire almost 100 pilots a week for the next 20 years to meet demand.
With a shortage of candidates in China and the broader Asia region, other Chinese carriers are also attempting to lure expat pilots with lucrative pay packages.
Regional carrier Qingdao Airlines is promising as much as US$318,000 a year for pilots while Sichuan Airlines, which also flies to Australia, is offering pay packages of US$302,000 year.