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Cathay hires local pilots as it plots comeback

written by Isabella Richards | June 2, 2021

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 B-LXK at Melbourne Airport. (Dave Soderstrom)
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 B-LXK at Melbourne Airport. (Dave Soderstrom)

Cathay Pacific is set to hire new pilots who have the right to work in Hong Kong after its toughest year yet.

“While we are still not seeing immediate, meaningful signs of growth, the recruitment we are conducting at this stage is about forward planning,” Cathay said in a statement.

The Hong Kong-based airline saw a huge shift in 2020, especially only being an international carrier. With borders shutting almost everywhere, this took a dramatic toll on Cathay, resulting in a US$2.8 billion full-year loss.

However, it is now looking to the future, first actioning a pilot push. “Cathay Pacific is continuously reviewing our crewing requirements, even though we are currently only operating a small fraction of the passenger flights we were operating prior to the pandemic,” the statement included.

The drive for hiring locally acquired pilots is an unconventional move for Cathay, considering they have relied heavily on foreign pilots, however, the nature of the pandemic has restricted their usual methods.

The airline is beginning the hiring process this week for first and second officers to position Cathay ahead of international recovery.

In April, Cathay announced its latest campaign, ‘Arm’s up, let’s fly again’, a push for all employees to be vaccinated in order to work.


In a memo obtained by the South China Morning Post, Chris Kempis, the director of flight operations at Cathay, said, “Based on our operational modelling, it is clear that it won’t be long before we are unable to sustainably roster unvaccinated crew.

“As such, it looks increasingly likely that in the future being vaccinated will be an essential requirement of the job for any Hong Kong-based aircrew.”

The campaign has already gained fruitful traction within Cathay, with 80 per cent of pilots and 40 per cent of the cabin crew already vaccinated or booked in for it.

Patrick Healy, chairman at Cathay Pacific, said 2020 was the “most challenging” year for the airline as it relies solely on foreign travel for its revenues.

Deliveries for Airbus A350-900 and -1000 aircraft were pushed back by up to two years, from 2020-21 to 2020-23. Similarly, deliveries for A321neos — some of which were originally meant for now-shuttered regional wing Cathay Dragon — were delayed from 2020-2023 to 2020-2025.

Internally, the company was forced to dismiss 5,900 employees, including 5,300 in Hong Kong as part of the Cathay Dragon closure. This was instigated so Cathay could stay above water during the worst of the pandemic.


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