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Cathay Pacific response to locally employed pilots’ claim

09 Feb 2010


In response to a media enquiry about the non-participation of locally employed pilots at the Chinese New Year Parade, a Cathay Pacific spokesman said:

“It is very disappointing that the local pilots will not join the Chinese New Year Parade. The parade brings enjoyment to hundreds of thousands of people and our staff have always been keen to take part in it. Local pilots have been strong supporters of community activities for 20 years, and it will be disappointing to the many members of the community who benefit from their participation if they express their grievances by withdrawing from them.”

Below is background information on Cathay Pacific’s pilot employment policy and the Cadet Pilot Scheme for reference.

Employment Policy

Cathay Pacific is a fair employer in strict compliance with anti-discrimination regulations. Pilots are recruited into Hong Kong as locally employed or expatriate pilots on the basis of their experience. All locally employed pilots are treated exactly the same as expatriate pilots in terms of career progression and promotion opportunities. They also enjoy the same salary and benefits as expatriate pilots in Hong Kong including pension fund payments, medical care, education allowances for children attending international schools and kindergartens in Hong Kong, staff travel etc.

The only major differences are that locally employed pilots are not entitled to an expatriate housing allowance in Hong Kong and their children’s education allowances are exclusive of boarding schools overseas, as they are locally employed. However, all locally employed Captains receive a special cash allowance of HK$24,000 per month which can be used to offset rental or mortgage payments.

We recruit overseas for talents and skills that are not readily available in Hong Kong. It is well-established industry practice in Hong Kong to recruit expertise from overseas to fill talent gaps.

The goal of the airline is to increase the number of locally employed pilots - both on Bases overseas and in Hong Kong. Through the Cadet Pilot Scheme, we have made a huge investment over the past two decades in training young people who may otherwise not have had the opportunity to become pilots and to develop local talent in Hong Kong.

The suggestion of the pilots’ union to pay full expatriate housing allowance to locally employed pilots does not make sense. In effect, it would obviate the need for the Cadet Pilot Scheme when the airline could go out to the international pilots’ market for experienced professionals. We have thousands of applications from all over the world for pilot positions at Cathay Pacific.

Competitive Remuneration

Remuneration packages for Cathay Pacific’s locally employed pilots in Hong Kong are very competitive. For example, a locally employed Captain with 2 children in an international school will receive a total package per annum, including pension fund contribution, in the region of more than HK$1.8 million to HK$2.5 million depending on the pay scale, number of hours flown during the year and the age of the children.

The Cadet Pilot Scheme

Cathay Pacific launched the Cadet Pilot Scheme in 1988 to provide people in Hong Kong with the unprecedented training opportunity to become a pilot with one of the best airlines in the world.

The initiative is in line with the airline’s goal of increasing the number of locally employed pilots – both on Bases overseas and in Hong Kong – and reducing our dependence on expatriate pilots in the longer term.

Cathay Pacific has made a huge investment in training young people who may otherwise not have had the opportunity to become pilots. As of January 2010, more than 300 graduates from the Cadet Pilot Scheme have joined the airline as locally employed Second Officers.

Upon graduation from a 14-month training course at Flight Training Adelaide (FTA), the cadet pilots will join the airline as Second Officers in Hong Kong on local terms. Cathay Pacific takes up all training costs, estimated at about HK$1 million for each cadet pilot. Such training in other countries is invariably paid for by the trainees themselves.

The Cadet Pilots Scheme has been a huge success since its launch more than 20 years ago. We have received some thousands of applications from young people for the much coveted career development opportunity in Hong Kong.

In recent years, Cathay Pacific has further enhanced the training programme to double the number of Cadet Pilots under training at Flight Training Adelaide from approximately 30 to 60 per year. This is in anticipation of a shortage in supply of experienced pilots in the longer term.

To broaden the prospective talent pool, we also lifted the requirement for a cadet applicant to be a HKID card holder in June 2009. In other words, the scheme is now open to all applicants worldwide as long as they are willing to make Hong Kong their home. Since that time the airline has recruited 39 applicants for the Cadet Scheme of which 13 are Hong Kong Chinese by nationality, indicating the difficulties in hiring qualified candidates among HKID cardholders.