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Thread: Spring Airlines
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Old 26th Apr 2012, 20:21
  #23 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Canada
Posts: 5

What an aptly chosen name. Your description of what is going on at Spring Airlines is well, pretty nearsighted indeed.

And yes, I know personally. I work for an agency dealing with airlines around the World, including China and Spring. If you think the following is biased, this is your privilege.

I was in Shanghai four weeks ago and had a couple of beers with a dozen or so of our Spring expat pilots at the Big Bamboo on Hongmei Lu. What I heard there does quite not match what you and others are saying on this thread about Spring.

In general terms, our pilots told me they are happy at Spring and in Shanghai with the occasional beefs here and there. Yes, people are p....d off with layover hotels. Some of them are downright not acceptable. To say the least, this is still an ongoing campaign. More work in this regard is needed for sure. We are trying.

On the whole, most agreed that Spring has improved a lot since the first arrivals of expats there by Spring 2010. But it has certainly been a learning experience on both sides of the fence.

You are right, airline medicals are a lot more thorough in China than in the West. But I have attended medical exam sessions in China with our pilots and I always have seen an airline appointed doctor present to assist candidates. The idea is not to screw candidates. If there is a small problem, everybody, the airline's doctor, our agency (always present at the medicals) will be there to try and sort out the problem. I have even seen remedial medical procedures undertaken to clear a problem, with subsequent medical acceptance.

Chinese medicals are no worse than Japanese, Middle East medicals or are certainly more lenient than the newly required Air Force medicals in India. We always advise our candidates to prepare for the medical by exercising, cutting down on cigarettes or booze for a couple of weeks before the screening. This seems to help. The major medical deal breakers are mostly related to potential heart conditions, i.e. high blood pressure, high cholesterol count, etc…

But let me tell you, I believe that if you flunk a Chinese medical, my advice is to have a long conversation with your personal physician. You more than likely need that chat.

Training delays are an issue. Line checks take a long time to happen. But once you are checked out, you are OK. People do their flights and go home and, in this case, enjoy Shanghai. Do not go on an expat job with the idea of telling everybody how to do things, whether you are right or not. Do your job than relax.

Pilots who started with Spring in May 2010 have received all their full salary and end of year bonuses in full and on time. Nobody I know there has been docked with a penalty (as of late March when I was there). The biggest gripe is with the layover hotels.

When people accept to work in a foreign country, they accept to live and work by the local culture and local rules. And, yes, there are major cultural differences between Chinese culture (including social mores, business culture, employee/employer relations, etc...) and Western culture. Sometimes the cultural shock can be, well... a shocker. But you will find the same reality in other parts of Asia (Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc...), the Middle East, Africa, etc...

One fact to be taken into consideration is that Asian and Middle East people are more conservative when it comes to making decisions. When people make mistakes, there are consequences. Those can be much more dramatic then in the West. This creates an environment where day-to-day decision-making is much more cautious and conservative. If a major flight test (a CAAC one) is failed, in most circumstances, few people at the airline are likely to take a chance with the unsuccessful candidate. Nor people at other airlines.

Does this means that there no dynamism in Asian societies. Not by a long shot. Just look at the commercial and financial achievements we see today in Asia. But thousands of years old cultures and societies do not change in a few years. Nevertheless, see the China of today and compare with the China of fifty years ago. As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.

A lot has been said about Chinese employment contracts. So I will not repeat here all the inanities said in the past about them. But first, one needs to understand the basics underlying the way Chinese employment contracts are written. As previously said in one of the posts in this thread, Chinese are employed for life.

It is thus very hard for Chinese employers to fire employees, Chinese or not. The way around this is to write employment contracts that will encompass and describe as broadly as possible a series of circumstances giving employers the leeway to let go a really unwanted employee. This is why many Chinese expat employment contracts have these long lists of minor and major mistakes.

The major problem with Chinese expat employment contracts is that, in many cases, the English version and the Chinese version of the contract do not match. Most of the times, contracts are translated in Chinese using translation software. This approach leaves a lot to be desired. This is why in many instances, we found that we (nor even Chinese employers) could understand what some of the clauses meant. This is why the airlines and expat pilots are, very often, not in the same page and end up having different interpretations of their contracts. Both are reading a different version of the contract. Most agencies do not care about this.

The agency I work for spent close to 25,000 US$ in independent Chinese translation and legal advice to ensure both the Chinese and the Chinese versions of the employment were as close as possible to each other. Also, we send a blank version of the contract to all the candidates applying for positions with our customers whether in China or not. Candidates know forehand what the employment terms are. No last minute surprise.

In general terms, Spring is no worse, and actually better, than many other Chinese and non-Chinese airlines. Within the constraints of cultural heritage, they have tried and have succeeded in improving themselves. Yes, more improvement possible, indeed. This is a work in progress.

In conclusion, I do not subscribe to your (and others in this thread) general condemnation of all Chinese airlines and specifically Spring Airlines. Most are trying to do better and, yes, will need to get better. Agencies have to educate them on to how to better manage their expat pilots. They will succeed with the help of their agencies.

I know by experience that this is a delicate exercise, a tight balancing act. But, if this done with tact and diplomacy, I know it can work. I have seen it happen numerous times with our customers.

If you want to talk to some of our pilots at Spring, Let me know

I am looking forward to your comments.
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