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Chinese Airlines On Big Hiring Spree As The Travel Industry Rebounds

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With a weak job market currently facing many in China, especially university graduates, cabin crew roles have become an attractive prospect. And it seems to be a good time for this, with Chinese airlines undertaking the biggest hiring drives in more than three years as the country faces rebounding travel.

During the pandemic, with all airlines either limited or banned, the air travel industry took a big hit. In China alone, the total number of flight attendants fell by around 11,000, an 11% drop from the pre-pandemic level of 108,955 in 2019, according to data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). This drop was in large part due to attrition, with many cabin crews leaving their jobs due to a significant income decrease during the pandemic, as the number of flight hours played a significant part in their salary.

However, since the relaxation of China’s pandemic policies, and with the country reopening its borders, the aviation industry has returned to its former bustling scene. Figures are showing that there was a huge increase in the number of passenger flights flown domestically in March 2023, compared to March 2022. More than 360,000 domestic flights took off this March, which was an increase of 133% from the same period last year. It also exceeded the same period before the pandemic in 2019. While international and regional routes lagged behind, there is an upwards trajectory, with the total number of seats flown in April 2023 being 3 million, 1.7 million more than the previous month.

After being put on hold for a long time over the pandemic period, airline personnel have now begun a big hiring spree to match the demand for these flights and to get ready to meet an even bigger demand that is expected in 2024. Carriers including Xiamen Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Spring Airlines are just some of the airlines that are on a hiring spree.

The job market in China is currently looking bleak – it is one of the country’s worst job markets in decades – especially for the record 11 million university graduates about to enter it. Companies in sectors like technology, education and property are all believed to be cutting staff, and export demand is weakened. As a result, a deluge of post university applicants are applying for cabin crew roles, which are appearing as an attractive option in the current state of affairs.

Available positions are mainly concentrated in front line positions, like cabin crew and flight attendants, as well as in security and maintenance personnel, and ground support. What is making the job even more appealing to the applicants is that airlines are offering a relatively high salary for these positions, with some airlines offering a maximum annual salary of 330,000 Yuan (approx. US $48,000) for flight attendants.

Hainan Airlines, which plans to hire more than 1,000 flight attendants this year, has apparently already received more than 20,000 applications. With the relatively high income and having the chance to fly around the world, it’s not a surprise that cabin crew roles are an attractive prospect for these graduates.

Despite bright predictions for air travel for 2024, and the demand of job seekers, Chinese airlines are currently playing a game of roulette with their prices, especially with the cost of airfares for international flights. While international flights have recovered and seen a big jump from the numbers last year, they are still at just 30% of pre-pandemic levels.

So, with this limited capacity, air fares have had to increase. While some people seem happy to be paying these higher fares, it does pose the risk of putting others off travelling abroad. And even with airlines adding to their international capacity, mostly because the peak summer season is approaching, the cost of airfares doesn’t appear to be coming down.

This may be something that the airlines have to consider when moving forward, considering the country is facing a combination of a bleak job market and a higher cost of living.

Last Updated on 2023/05/02

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