Chinese Airlines Wave Wads of Cash to Lure Foreign Pilots

Chinese airlines need to hire almost 100 pilots a week for the next 20 years to meet skyrocketing travel demand. Facing a shortage of candidates at home, carriers are dangling lucrative pay packages at foreigners with cockpit experience.

Giacomo Palombo, a former United Airlines pilot, said he’s being bombarded every week with offers to fly Airbus A320s in China. Regional carrier Qingdao Airlines promises as much as $318,000 a year. Sichuan Airlines, which flies to Canada and Australia, is pitching $302,000. Both airlines say they’ll also cover his income tax bill in China.

“When the time to go back to flying comes, I’ll definitely have the Chinese airlines on my radar,” said Palombo, 32, now an Atlanta-based consultant for McKinsey & Co. who said he was speaking in his personal capacity and not his employer’s. “The financials are attractive.”