Air China pilots warn flight safety under threat by unequal pay and lack of rest

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 5:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 April, 2014, 2:33am

More than 100 Air China pilots have signed an open letter alleging that they have an excessive workload, get inadequate rest and receive unequal pay.

Many of the pilots who signed the letter fly large aircraft such as Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s in the airline's international fleet.

The letter, which is circulating on the internet and has been verified by the airline, said most pilots were not given enough rest due to the company's "blind expansion" policy, leaving their physical and mental health "severely damaged". Cultural and salary differences also caused tensions between Chinese and foreign pilots at the company, the letter said. The pilots signing the letter alleged their foreign counterparts in the airline had "longer rest, easier routes but higher pay".

"The arrogance in the bones of white people, plus the unfair payments, has made the relationship between Chinese and foreign pilots intense, extremely unhelpful to cockpit management and will eventually threaten flight safety," the letter stated.

Air China, which is based in Beijing, confirmed to the South China Morning Post yesterday that it was aware of the complaints and they would be dealt with properly to ensure passenger safety.

The pilots said they suffered oppressive policies which forced them to stay on duty even if they were no longer willing to do so.

The excessive workload has taken a toll on many pilots' family lives, they said.

The letter also noted that heart and brain diseases caused by hypertension were growing among young and middle-aged pilots.

Air China employs more than 2,200 cabin crew and 3,700 flight crew, according to its 2012 financial report.