“Vietjet Air welcomed pilots from Vietnam Airlines and was willing to pay 1.2-2 times higher,” a former pilot of Vietjet told Zing.vn. “Bamboo Airways even pays more than Vietjet.”
“Vietnamese pilots are being hunted not only in Vietnam, but in other countries as well,” he said.
The story reflects the stiff competition among airlines to recruit qualified pilots. Two years ago, Vietnam Airlines, the national flag air carrier, saw the resignation of many pilots.
A report from Vietnam Airlines to the Ministry of Transport in June 2018 showed that it had 1,138 pilots, including 853 Vietnamese citizens and 285 foreign citizens. Foreign pilots accounted for 25 percent of total pilots of the air carrier.
Another report showed that by the end of 2019, Vietnam Airlines would need 1,293 pilots, but it plans to recruit 155 pilots more than needed in case pilots resign.
The air carrier seems to be well aware of the lack of pilots which may lead to a ‘brain drain’. A senior official of Vietnam Airlines said the high growth rate of the global aviation industry, especially in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, has led to the pilot shortage in Vietnam.
“Pilot job hopping has put pressure on airlines,” the report says.
In 2015-2017, 223 pilots left Vietnam Airlines. The figure was 33 in the first five months of 2018, including 25 foreign and eight Vietnamese. Meanwhile, 15-20 other pilots were expected to resign.
The senior executive said that 2017 was the ‘hottest year’ for airlines with a high number of pilots resigning. This was because Chinese airlines were offering high pay to lure talent. The job hopping was less frequent in 2018.
However, he predicted that the problem would reoccur as more air carriers are preparing to take off and need pilots.
Vietnam Airlines now pays VND120 million a month on average and plans to increase the pay this year.
In 2019, the main pilot of a Boeing 787 can receive VND208 million a month on average, while the pay could be up to VND250 million. Meanwhile, the figure is VND126-150 million for an assistant pilot.
As for A321 Neo, the pay is VND180 million on average and maximum of VND240 million for the chief pilot, and VND101-136 million for deputy pilot.
However, the rates are unattractive to Vietnamese pilots. Vietjet Air now pays VND180 million to a A320 pilot, or nearly double that paid by Vietnam Airlines.