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Chinese airlines place foreign pilots on unpaid leave

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  • Chinese airlines place foreign pilots on unpaid leave

    10.02.2020 - 10:52 UTC

    Several Chinese carriers are to place their foreign pilots on unpaid leave as the Coronavirus continues to bite hard on operations, The South China Morning Post said. The news follows a request from Cathay Pacific (CX, Hong Kong Int'l) Chief Executive Officer Augustus Tang earlier this week to the airline's 27,000 employees to take unpaid leave between March and June.

    Foreign pilots have become a necessity at many Chinese carriers as they pursue aggressive network growth which cannot be covered solely by local pilots. To lure these additional pilots, overseas flight crews are often paid higher salaries than their local counterparts and are therefore a costly element to an airline's operating costs.

    According to a memo seen by the newspaper and other multiple sources, all foreign pilots working for China Southern Airlines (CZ, Guangzhou), Hainan Airlines (HU, Haikou), Xiamen Airlines (MF, Xiamen), Tianjin Airlines (GS, Tianjin), and Capital Airlines (China) (JD, Beijing Capital) have been placed on indefinite leave.

    “All foreign pilots, including those who have applied for leave exemption and those who have not, shall start a non-fixed term leave without pay as soon as possible,” said a memo from China Southern to a group of foreign pilots on February 4. The pilots' grounding was effective on that day, and they were told they would “return to work when [the] situation gets better.”

    China Eastern Airlines (MU, Shanghai Hongqiao) is believed to have offered its overseas flight crew unpaid leave but has yet to make it compulsory.