Despite high salaries, Korean Air had no choice but to say good bye to 79 foreign pilots last year alone. The figure is an increase of nearly 40% from the previous year and the highest-ever since 2010. Although Chinese airliners fiercely competed to bring in foreign pilots last year, the main culprit behind this phenomenon is said to be an internal structural problem in hiring pilots, according to industry watchers.
Korean Air offers US$12,894 as a monthly salary after tax to a captain with 7,000 or more flying hours with the B777. In addition to the salary, including the commission to a job agency, it cost Korean Air about 200 million won (US$174,000) to hire a foreign captain.
By contrast, one Korean pilot with a similar flying career is paid 91 million won after tax. The gap between the two is more than doubled. In addition, foreign pilots are put up at Hyatt Hotel Incheon and can use up to 12 days as holidays a month. When flying to meet their families, free business-class seats are offered to them. A Korean Air return ticket from Incheon to San Diego for a flight one month from now is sold for at least 6.01 million won.
“Most foreign pilots brought in by Korean Air are devoid of experiences in flying their airplanes,” a representative of the air transportation industry said. “A huge amount of money goes to the education and training of such foreign pilots.” Unskilled foreign pilots enjoy Korean Air’s systematic flying education and build their careers and move to other foreign airliners, he explained.
In addition, some points out that such employment practices for foreign pilots may be fatal to safe flights. Foreign pilots unbridled by flying and resting hours set in collective bargain agreements prefer flying 20 straight days of a month and take rest in ten remaining days. Thus, 20 consecutive working days may force pilots to accumulate much fatigue and serve as a deadly factor in emergencies.