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View Full Version : Working as a Pilot in China

03-20-2017, 12:45 AM
Hi guys, sharing my insight.
China is a big country: different region, different airline, different conditions.

I read that book ("Flying upside down"), not saying that it's spreading false information.. But it's SPECIFIC information (Tianjin - Beijing area, very polluted) and it's talking about a SPECIFIC airline (how many airlines are there in the US? A book about Southwest would differ a lot from one written about a regional.. would it?)
And how about living in South Dakota, compared to living in California? Different.. Right? There would be things in common of course, but it wouldn't be the same experience.
Also: this is a country that is growing at 7% a year. This means that every 7 years it grows +50%.
Be very aware of this. Things which were valid some years ago might be changed (for better or for worse, but changed)

Also, some references in that book are outdated or specific to that airline only.
For example: here the paycheck is wired to a Bank of China local account in USD, so there are NO restrictions to send it abroad, because the money is not in local currency.

Or: the company manuals of Tianjin were poorly translated from Chinese, and also the foreign pilot's contract was a bad copy of the Chinese one.
Here: none of that is true.

So, here is my post that I originally posted on PPrune.. And I am posting it here now. Because I think that everyone should be entitled to make an informed decision about moving or not moving abroad.

Otherwise by reading that book alone (which was genuinely written to help other colleagues, but was also a way for the authors to release some of the anger they accumulated during the time spent abroad) might lead some of you off track!

Be aware: I am not saying that here you will find yourself in heaven.
There WILL be challenges, both in the day to day life (speaking to people it's difficult. Not being understood and having to use a real time translator on your phone it's indeed stressing) and in the daily flying (Meters to feet conversion for example).
What I am saying is that it's doable and it will be financially rewarding.
If and only IF you are prepared to go outside of your comfort zone.

With a resident contract it's $1 M every 3 years.
So you have a business idea? Or you want to retire? Here is a way to fund it, that's all.
Plus it's an experience. One of the reasons why I wanted to be a pilot was to explore the world.. And guess what? There are 190+ countries each one worth visiting, each one different from the others in some way!

So here it goes:
************************************************** ****

Decided to write a long post..
This is because I came on pprune around a year and a half ago and that's where I found out about Xiamen.
But except the link to the Terms and Conditions there wasn't much info here so I just went and everything worked out great..
Now it's my time to pay back sharing some info!

About the city:

The original post on pprune had many photos, but here I am limited to max 3.. So full photo album link here:

Pollution --> Look at the sky color in the pics.
Compared with the rest of Chinese cities it is very clean, not many factories in town.
(of course don't expect the same quality of air of EU/US, but compared to Beijing it's heaven.)

Ranked 2nd city for quality of life in China (look at wiki

There are bike paths everywhere, very clean. Parks, you can take long walks... etc.

Expats: you can find them only in a couple of neighborhoods, it's not an international city like Shanghai or Beijing.

Cost of life:
Taxi -> 30min ride approx 5 USD
Mc Donald's meal approx 4 USD

Places to stay:

A) Straits international community (single bedroom around 800 usd/month, double bedroom 900 usd month)
Near the beach, lots of western restaurants (but price for a dinner would be around 15-20 usd), nice area, lots of expats


This is the view from an apt at 15th floor:

B) Marco polo (single bedroom around 600 usd/month, double bedroom 700 usd month)
Lots of expats, near the lake (which is not really a lake anyway), lots of western shops, more things to do compared to Straits

C) Near Tesco mall (single bedroom around 400 usd/month, double bedroom 550 usd month)
Newly built area, no expats, 5 mins from the airport, lots of western shops (mc donalds, starbucks, kfc, tesco, decathlon, everything basically)

International schools:
there are 2 of them, there is a queue to get your kids in.. So you have to sign up early.
But not much info on that (don't have any kids)

About the company:

I haven't been here long yet, but treatment from the start has been always very good.
They value pilots, always available to solve problems.
Spoke with many expats and they are very happy with the working conditions. (around 60 expats here at the moment, about 10 from Usa/Canada, 15 Europe, 15 South America, the rest other countries)
Never saw that kind of attitude/enthusiasm at my last airline.

Payscales are advertised everywhere, it's the most paying job on the 737 right now.
But there are a couple of things extra which are not advertised for some reason:

1) Profit share, about 10k USD/year
2) Overnight allowance (depends on contract, from 500 to 1500 usd depending if you commute or not)
3) Resident contract (which is what I am doing): overtime is counted monthly, so if you fly more than 75 hrs a month you earn 300 usd/hr.
Average is around 100 hrs/year of overtime (30k USD more)
The payscales that you read from the agencies are all net..

So for a resident contract you are looking at 30k USD/month net.

Mainly domestic but also some International destinations (Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia)
Hotels -> 5 stars everywhere, really good.
This is the hotel where you do all the groundschool in Xiamen (and also the assessment when you come over)

** pic removed, forum max pics per post = 3.. So look at the album.

787 upgrade -> not advertised, nor offered at the moment.. but rumors that it will be in the future

5 free per year + 5 ID75.
This for you + wife + kids + parents.
Each of them gets 5+5 tickets

Other things to consider:

Roster 4 days ON, 2 days OFF.
Usually overnights are quite common, so expect to start on day 1 in Xiamen, then sleep 3 nights away.
Sometimes less.
Usually you will operate from a nearby airport (Fuzhou) which is a big base for them. (Hotel is really nice there)
Duty times: the really long slots that affected the operations until last year (1 hour each single and every domestic flight) are mostly gone (except Beijing and Shanghai which are overloaded).
However: it's not a walk in the park. Usually the flying days are long.
Also it takes some time to adapt, especially the first 2 weeks you will need to figure out how to use a VPN, their Uber-like taxi service app, the app to get food delivered to your door, the sim card, etc.. etc..
Anyway, for me it was a no brainer.
I was working a lot already at home.. Here I get paid the big bucks to do it!

Families: many capts choose to bring their wife here, if you are not married it's still doable but she will need to get a visa everytime.. So more complicated!

Ps: recruitment takes some time. Usually to get a response and to organize an assessment it's around 3 months.
I made some useful contacts here, so if interested in speeding up things or for first hand info on the assessment PM me!

Any additional info: kidnapper01 (at)

03-20-2017, 04:59 AM
That email tho.....

03-20-2017, 08:02 AM
That email tho.....
It's a secondary one, didn't want to disclose my primary address on a public forum!

03-21-2017, 02:01 AM
To be fair, Xiamen was very clear the few times I did fly there.

I was in Chengdu and thought much I what I read regarding the author's experience with Tianjin was similar to my experience with Chengdu/Sichuan Airlines.

Regarding the translation of manuals, we had a guy get nailed with a large fine due to a poor translation of manuals. He followed the Airbus FCOM, but the translation into Chinese was bad, so the company argued that he violated a limitation and suspended him and fined him (along with the public shaming). The proper, original, Airbus FCOM wording was not enough to protect him.

Anyway, glad you had a great experience with China. It can be financially very rewarding if you are in a good position to handle the fun of China. I could be persuaded to go back for a short time after my kids are grown, if the options are still good. But I am in no hurry to go back.

08-26-2018, 06:17 AM
I understand that China does come with it's share of ups and downs. Obviously, one cant expect free lunches.

However, given the 4-year contract, does one have an option of leaving early in case one is not able to cope up? How are resignations treated? And is there a contract amount to be paid to be relieved?

Any idea about Hainan airlines?

08-26-2018, 08:28 AM
Any idea about Hainan airlines?

08-26-2018, 11:52 PM
I understand that China does come with it's share of ups and downs. Obviously, one cant expect free lunches.

However, given the 4-year contract, does one have an option of leaving early in case one is not able to cope up? How are resignations treated? And is there a contract amount to be paid to be relieved?

Any idea about Hainan airlines?

All of the contracts I saw had an exit option with 90 days notice.