Will Cathay Pacific face a pilot exodus to mainland airlines as it cuts salaries and benefits?
Better pay, lifestyle and roster could mean about 200 cockpit staff seeking greener pastures across the border, recruiters say
Mainland Chinese carriers are seeking to poach Cathay Pacific Airways pilots, capitalising on a cost-cutting drive by Hong Kong’s flagship airline to slash salaries and benefits.
Some 200 pilots from Cathay Pacific are considering their options with the likes of China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines after registering with a recruitment agency, according to a source.
This has contributed to cockpit recruiters for China’s major state-owned and private airlines making greater strides to woo Hong Kong-based pilots feeling disenchanted over salary cuts and wanting a better lifestyle.
In an attempt to plug losses of HK$2.05 billion in the first half of the year, Cathay Pacific embarked on a three-year transformation plan to rein in costs which included 600 job cuts so far.
Last month, pilots at Cathay Pacific were told that they would face a salary freeze, pension changes and substantial cuts to housing allowances worth HK$1.2 million.
We have seen a spike in interest in recent weeks, numbering in the hundreds
“Until last month, very few Cathay Pacific pilots have inquired, or made applications to Chinese airlines. However we have seen a spike in interest in recent weeks, numbering in the hundreds,” said a Recruitment Agency Manager, which recruits pilots for Chinese airlines. They plan host recruitment briefings for Hong Kong pilots at the end of the month.
According to the manager, China Southern and Hainan – will need an estimated 100 foreign captains to meet demand for expansion each year until 2020.
At least 200 experienced pilots from Cathay Pacific, out of a total of 250 applicants, have expressed interest in flying for mainland Chinese airlines.
Of Cathay Pacific’s 3,265 pilots, the average turnover rate remained “around” 2.5 per cent this year for resignations and retirements, a figure the company said was “manageable.”
However, the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association claimed its figures were double the official rate.