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Foreign Pilots in China Forced to Stop Working, Without Pay

Foreign Pilots in China Forced to Stop Working, Without Pay
Jennifer Billock

Coronavirus is officially a major problem. The World Health Organization says it’s a global emergency, and more than 450 people have died in China from the virus. That also means that there’s been a massive drop in interest in travel to China, where the virus originated. It’s a significant downsize in travel patterns, all thanks to the illness.

What Are Airlines Doing?

Airlines around the world are drastically cutting service to China. Some major airlines have even cut service to the country altogether until the coronavirus is eliminated. The goal is to stop the spread of the virus. Cathay Pacific, based in Hong Kong, has taken a particularly strict stance on the flights: 30 percent of its global capacity will be cut, and 90 percent of flights to mainland China are indefinitely on hiatus. In China itself, flights are being drastically cut, as well—and the employees are suffering for it without even being sick.

How Are Employees Being Treated?

Several Chinese airlines are telling foreign crew members, including cabin crew and pilots, to go back to their home countries—without pay for the forced missed time at work. China Southern Airlines put all foreign personnel on indefinite leave without pay on February 4.

“As the spread of novel coronavirus continues, the number of confirmed and suspected cases are increasing,” the airline told employees in an email. “Now many countries have imposed flight restrictions and many airlines at home and abroad suspend flights to and from China. Confronted with this situation, our company has made the latest decision as follows: All foreign pilots, including those who have applied for leave exemption and those who have not applied, shall start a non-fixed term leave without pay as soon as possible (Those who have flight duties should firstly complete the current one and get confirmation from the fleet before starting the LWOP) until our company inform pilots to return to work after situation gets better.”

Hainan Airlines Group took a similar tactic, putting all foreign pilots on indefinite unpaid leave. China Eastern Airlines at least gave their employees an option: either go on leave without pay, or remain in China and keep working at the risk of their own health.

View Comments (3)


  1. Allan38103

    February 14, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    Do the pilots ave any agreement with the companies as to what happens when the airline has to temporarily suspend flights?

    If so, is the airline just living up to what has been previously agreed? Or should the companies be doing more?

  2. Sydneyberlin

    February 17, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    “Indefinite unpaid leave”. Ha, easy- I bet most pilots and especially cabin crew have just tens of thousands of Dollars stacked somewhere for a situation like this!

  3. OZFLYER86

    February 18, 2020 at 10:25 pm

    if it weren’t for the chinese govt, many chinese airlines would fail very soon.

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