There are NO free flights to China for TEFL teachers

When I first qualified as a teacher in 2002, I came at a lucky time when the ESL industry was just beginning to grow and coming to China was very much a new thing. Following my TEFL training, I applied for a number of jobs and accepted one in Xi’an starting in the September of 2002. To my great surprise, my pre-paid flight ticket arrived to my house in England by DHL. I signed for the flight ticket and was ready to travel. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case…you will almost certainly NOT get a pre-paid flight ticket to China if you are an English teacher. 
 
Don't waste your time looking for a school which offers a pre-paid flight...just spend the same time saving for one...

Nowadays in China, schools never send flight tickets directly to teachers. I’m sure that there might be the odd school somewhere in China either trusting enough, or desperate enough to send one in advance, but you might be looking for months (or years) on end to find it, or you’ll be stuck in some back-water town with no other teachers to spend free time with. What now actually happens is that you’ll be given a flight-reimbursement fee, or ‘contract completion bonus’ at the end of your 12-month contract.

Why don't China schools pay for your flights?
 
The reason that English schools here in China don’t send pre-paid flights is two-fold; firstly, many dishonest teachers found that all they had to do was to apply for a job and then they were sent a flight ticket. They’d fly to Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong, have a nice holiday and then fly home again, not ever taking the domestic flight connection they were supposed to take to start the job. The school was very out of pocket and very out of luck. Legally, the teacher hadn’t done anything wrong; the teacher hadn’t asked for a ticket, or signed a legal work contract in their home country. The school was down the river without a paddle!
 
Secondly, and more importantly, paying back the teacher’s flight cost at the end of their contract means that teachers are 1) guaranteed to turn up and 2) that there is more chance that they’ll stick around. In virtually all ESL teacher employment contracts you will find a clause saying that if you resign for any reason before the end of your contract, then you’ll forfeit your ‘end of contract bonus’, which is essentially your flight money home. This goes a long way to ensuring that teachers see out their promises to the school.

Chinese Schools aren't the bad guys here
 
It is very important to realize and understand that English schools in China aren’t the ‘bad guys’ here. It’s a logical policy and if you were the owner of a language school in your home country, you too wouldn’t fancy buying and sending international flight tickets to strangers in other countries who might not show. Becoming an ESL teacher and travelling to another country to live is a daunting thing and thousands have second thoughts at the last minute every year.

Additionally, the school really needs teachers to see out their contract, as they have paying customers who have gotten used to the teacher and their teaching style. A teacher leaving a school always sees students drop off from taking a new course in schools.
 
At the end of the day, you will get your money back for the flight, both in end of contract bonuses and the comparatively excellent rates of pay you receive on the job. Graduates entering companies here in China here average around 2000-3000RMB per month, so you will quickly see that you do just fine and be able to save a good lump sum.
 
Before coming, make sure that you visit many price-comparison websites to get the best deal on flights to China. If you are prepared to stop at destinations on the way, then you’ll also most likely save a lot on the price of flights. Book flights early, spend a few hours online and you could save yourself a substantial amount! All of our jobs are with schools which have good end of contract bonuses and you won’t be mucked about when it is time to move on. Good luck and happy travelling!

by Stuart Allen

 Stuart Allen has been teaching for over 15 years and is an expert  in the China TEFL industry.

 He is the founder and owner of RAY  English Recruitment.
 

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