The grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX has turned a pilot shortage in China into a pilot surplus for those qualified on 737s. A year ago, Chinese airlines were scrambling for pilots to help fuel the rapid growth of the industry in Asia and most of them were pinning that growth on massive orders for 737s. They were paying up to $300,000 a year for current and qualified captains and throwing in housing, vehicle and other perks. In the last nine months, Chinese airlines should have put dozens of new MAX aircraft into service. Without all those MAXes, however, demand for pilots has dried up.
According to Bloomberg, the pilot headhunters it talked to are reporting almost no hiring for 737 pilots as the grounding drags on into its 10th month. Dave Ross, the president of Wasinc International, told the news agency only about a quarter of the 28 Chinese airlines he represents are looking for any pilots at all and only one or two are looking for 737 pilots. “Most of them are overstaffed because of the grounding of the Max,” he told Bloomberg. The relatively few Chinese airlines with A320s continue to hunt for pilots, however, and the money is good. Juneyo Airlines in Shanghai is paying A320 captains between the ages of 30 and 53 $299,000 a year for 14 hours of flying time a week and seven weeks of paid vacation plus an overseas employment allowance of $666 a month.