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A Cathay Pacific 777 at the gate in Los Angeles. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Cathay Pacific Resumes Hiring Local Pilots

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways has decided to resume its flight crew recruitment for Hong Kong-based pilots again for the first time in approximately eighteen months, as the airline is getting a head start into the lengthy medium-to-long term process of rebuilding its business and surviving the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cathay Pacific told its employees that it will reopen the recruitment process for its first and second flight officers as an attempt to protect the airline’s position ahead of a hopeful recovery in international travel.

This new move comes a month after the airline had said that it would be closing its Canadian pilot base, as well as the consideration to close both pilot bases in Australia and New Zealand too as it wanted to reduce the number of pilots hired outside of Hong Kong.

As of April, the flag carrier was flying less than five percent of its pre-pandemic flight schedule waves of new infections in other countries have resulted in closed borders and uneventful travel bubbles. It reported a 99.3% fall in passenger numbers as compared to April 2019.

Director of Flight Operations for Cathay Pacific, Chris Kempis, said, “As we look to the future it is critically important that we keep our crew resource levels right, plan appropriately for the recovery and future growth to our network, and look forward to increasing demand as we welcome back more of our customers.”

Helping the Locals

The closing of regional subsidiary Cathay Dragon last year had also resulted in the retrenchment of several pilots who were either local citizens or permanent residents in Hong Kong. Furthermore, the airline had recently offered financial incentives to local crews if they were willing to voluntarily resign.

Whilst these crews might now have the opportunity once again to work with Cathay Pacific, the application might be tougher than before as the airline now requires applicant pilots to be fully vaccinated and able to provide proof of vaccination as well.

This was due to the airline’s foresight that its future international flight operations could be jeopardized if not every crew member onboard is vaccinated, posing as a potential imported health risk to other borders.

“Based on our operational modeling it is clear that it won’t be long before we are unable to sustainably roster unvaccinated crew,” Kempis said in a memo to staff. “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 regulation could also be an incentive to encourage more locals in Hong Kong to get vaccinated, as the country is one of the slowest with only about 13.6% of the population having been fully vaccinated, according to data shown by Our World in Data.

Although the choice to get vaccinated is voluntary and up to the people themselves, a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman touched on the significance of a fully vaccinated airline crew, saying that being in the service industry indicates an obligation and duty of care to protect not just the health and safety of employees, but for their customers as well.

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