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Across China: Foreign pilot sky-bound once again as air travel rebounds

Updated: May 8, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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TIANJIN, May 6 (Xinhua) -- Even as Park Wan-geun enjoyed his May Day holiday with his family, he remained busy preparing for his new job at an airline company in north China's Tianjin Municipality.

Park, a pilot hailing from the Republic of Korea (ROK), began his aviation career in China back in 2016 with an airline company based in the city of Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang Province. Over the years, he gained considerable experience flying Airbus planes to various destinations across China, including cities like Beijing, Chengdu and Xi'an.

During the pandemic, Park quit his job and returned to the ROK in search of new job opportunities. However, with the Chinese aviation market now making a strong recovery, Park, sensing promising potential, decided to return to China this year.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the country's air passenger trips surpassed 9.41 million during the May Day holiday that ended on May 3. Air passenger trips averaged 1.88 million per day during the five-day holiday, increasing over five times compared with the same period of last year and 4.2 percent from that of 2019.

Following a series of assessments, Park successfully cleared the entry process for Tianjin Airlines and is now set to become a captain in the company.

Since the beginning of this year, Tianjin Airlines, like many domestic airlines, has steadily promoted the resumption of domestic and cross-border routes and actively advanced the expansion of new routes. International air routes linking Tianjin and cities including London and Sydney have been restored, and the number of domestic air passengers has continued to grow.

Bai Chunyan, general manager of the flight department of Tianjin Airlines, said that with the comprehensive recovery of China's civil aviation, the company is now working towards recruiting highly experienced pilots, particularly from overseas. By introducing seasoned pilots, the airline hopes to establish a talent pool that can serve as a reserve for its team of pilots and better serve the passengers.

As the aviation industry makes a steady recovery, many foreign pilots from South American and Asian countries are eagerly anticipating new opportunities.

Some foreign pilots say they are drawn to Chinese airline companies due to better pay and the opportunity to work in more desirable locations. Many have expressed their willingness to relocate to China with their families after gaining work experience in the country.

Industry insiders said the introduction of foreign pilots has played a positive role in enriching the pilot teams and expanding the fleets of civil aviation in China, especially private enterprises.

Data shows that by the end of 2022, there were 3,340 valid pilot licenses held by foreigners in China. In some large domestic private airlines, the number of foreign pilots once exceeded 20 percent of the total.

Park said he was amazed by the fast development of China's aviation industry over the past decade, with airports across the country growing in size. He was likewise impressed by the professionalism and dedication of his Chinese colleagues during his time working in China.

"I hope I can finish the study and training before the flight as soon as possible, and take off again with my Chinese colleagues," Park said. 

Editor: Li Shimeng