The pilots received an average monthly salary of VND132.5 million ($5,710) in 2018, up 9 percent from the previous year. However, this was much less than what their peers earned at low cost carriers based in Vietnam.
In 2017, the average monthly salary for a captain with VietJet Air was VND180 million ($7,750), 48 percent higher than Vietnam Airlines at only VND121.6 million ($5,235).
Meanwhile, budget air carrier Jetstar Pacific, partly owned by Vietnam Airlines, also offered higher average salaries to its pilots, ranging from VND110-160 million ($4,736-6,888) based on the number of flight hours and seniority.
Low pay, unsatisfactory work conditions and severance policies pushed pilots to quit the national carrier in droves last year. This, in turn, pushed the airline to raise wages last June to retain its pilots.
In its latest report, Vietnam Airlines announced it had a total of 1,118 pilots at the end of 2018, 75.67 percent of them Vietnamese nationals.
The report also revealed flight attendants of Vietnam Airlines earned VND28.9 million ($1,244) on average a month last year, up 2.4 percent over the previous year.
The airline needs to hire 193 more pilots to have the 1,293 it needs to meet demand in 2019, and this will rise to 1,340 in 2020 and 1,570 by 2025. This is a challenging number given the increasing shortage of pilots globally, according to industry insiders.
Pilot training has always been extremely expensive, with stringent health and technical knowledge requirements, meaning that the number of pilots qualifying is always limited, according to industry insiders.
Vietnam Airlines earned record revenues of VND96.8 trillion ($4.17 billion) last year, up 17 percent from 2017. Pre-tax profit was VND3.24 trillion ($140 million), 34 percent above the target.
It aims to achieve consolidated revenues of VND112 trillion ($4.83 billion) this year and plans to add 22 new airplanes (two Airbus A350s and 20 Airbus A321neos) to expand its fleet to 112.
The country’s largest airline by passengers has been facing rising competition from private budget carrier VietJet Air and others like the latest market entrant, Bamboo Airways.