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Cathay Pacific statement on talks with Flight Attendants Union

25 Mar 2010

Cathay Pacific Airways announced early this morning (Thursday, 25 March) that it had cancelled with immediate effect a recently announced guideline relating to arrangements for cabin crew to swap flights with colleagues.

The company has been in discussion on the issue with the Flight Attendants Union (FAU) over the last two days. The talks have not yet reached any conclusion.

The airline’s General Manager Inflight Services Charlie Stewart-Cox issued a news alert to the crew community which read as follows:

“After 12 hours of talks on the swapping issue over the last two days with the FAU, we have unfortunately not been able to reach a conclusion at this stage. This is disappointing.

“In the meantime, I am issuing this Breaking News to let you know that the company has cancelled and will not reintroduce the guideline related to swapping below the 70 hours minimum as published on 15 March.

“We have made this decision because we want to reassure you that we have heard the concerns and the importance you placed on this particular issue.

“This is one of the solutions we have been discussing with the FAU over the past two days. Our talks with them continued into the early hours of this morning, and we were willing to continue to obtain a result that would benefit the crew community. We are prepared to continue our discussions with them at a later date.”


Cathay Pacific announced changes to swapping guidelines on 15 March to address misuse of the swapping system, but subsequently deferred the implementation indefinitely following concerns expressed by the crew community.

During the meetings with the FAU, from 23-25 March, the company reaffirmed its commitment to enhanced flexibility for cabin crew to swap their shifts so as to meet their lifestyle needs. It also stressed that it was never the company’s aim to limit normal swapping above cabin crew's guaranteed monthly minimum of 70 hours, nor was it the intention to limit swapping.

Hong Kong-based hourly paid cabin crew are guaranteed payment for a minimum of 70 hours per month. The 70 hours includes not just flying time, but also credit hours for such things as training and annual leave. Crew have the flexibility to swap up to five flights assigned in their monthly roster.

A review of the swapping pattern had found that a minority of crew were regularly swapping below their guaranteed minimum of 70 hours, departing from the principles of swapping flexibility and the 70-hour guarantee.

At its meetings with the FAU the company reaffirmed its principle that employees should be remunerated for work they perform, not for work they have passed on to their colleagues when they themselves have worked as little as 10-30 hours while taking home pay for the minimum guaranteed 70 hours.

The company does not believe it is reasonable to pay twice for the work of one - that is, to pay the employee who performed the work acquired through swapping, and also to pay the employee who swapped away the work below the guaranteed monthly minimum 70 hours. This has been a growing problem and the company considered it responsible to address it before it became an even bigger problem.

Fewer than 5% of Cathay Pacific’s cabin crew had been found to have regularly swapped below the minimum guarantee of 70 hours a month, but continue to be paid for 70 hours.

The minimum guarantee was introduced to protect our cabin crew from business downturns during which there might not be enough flights for the crew to attain 70-hours in a month. This happened during SARS, when hours fell to around 20 per month.