Data showed that during the 40-day Spring Festival period, the aviation sector transported 38.39 million passengers, a decline of 58.6%. Credit: Daily Hive.

Chinese pilots, who are on the front lines of the Covid-19 outbreak, are seeing their incomes decline sharply as the virus deals a severe blow to the aviation industry nationwide.

An anonymous pilot from one of the three top Chinese airlines told Global Times that his salary has been slashed by two-thirds since January.

“My biggest part of my income is from flying hours, but that part has gone to zero as more cities in the world lock down, and flying becomes impossible,” he said.

“In January, my colleague was able to fly 80 hours per month with the A330, but that quickly dropped to 15-16 hours in February,” he added.

He is not the only one to see income crater.

The pilot said many of his colleagues have seen their incomes fall by even half, and some foreign colleagues started to take unpaid leave from late January, the report said.

Official data showed that during the 40-day Spring Festival period, the aviation sector transported 38.39 million passengers, a decline of 58.6% from the corresponding time last year, the report said

A captain surnamed Zhao working in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, said he does not have any flights this month, and most of his colleagues flying the A330 have only flown 10 hours this month, the report said.

Financial reports showed that passenger turnover of the three major airlines — Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines — fell by more than 80% in February. 

Regulators said in February, the civil aviation industry suffered a staggering loss of 24.59 billion yuan (US$3.46 billion), of which airlines lost 20.96 billion yuan, the largest loss in a single month.

Zhang Wu’an, spokesperson of budget Spring Airlines, told the Global Times that the company has no plans to cut staff, although the performance of the company has not been getting better. 

But the good news is that the Chinese aviation industry has seen a slow recovery among domestic flights.

The Hainan branch of China Southern Airlines said it has resumed nearly 200 flights between Haikou and Sanya cities in South China’s Hainan Province, the report said.

Meanwhile, China.org.cn reported that San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has announced that China’s major airlines are resuming flights to SFO from Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing.

Air China, China Eastern and China Southern are resuming limited flights between China and SFO, the airport said on its website.

Air China’s Beijing route is back in operation, though its frequency has not yet been finalized, and China Southern is once again flying between Guangzhou and SFO. China Eastern will resume a daily Shanghai flight on March 29, the report said.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now.