Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific signs up 100 new mainland Chinese cabin crew as it rebuilds post-coronavirus

Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways has signed up 100 cabin crew through its first recruitment drive in mainland China and some have already started work, the company has said.

Cathay Pacific on Monday added the new staff were the trailblazers for the 1,500 people it aimed to recruit from across the border by 2025.

Mandy Ng, Cathay’s director of service delivery, said the recruitment of Mandarin-speaking flight attendants was an “obvious” and “very natural” move to expand staff diversity.

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“We appreciate a very diverse team of our cabin crew, not only coming from our local recruitment, but also from other areas in Asia and also from mainland China,” she said in an interview last Thursday.

“The mainland Chinese crew will complement our existing very diverse cabin crew community to better serve our customers who actually come from different parts of the world with different backgrounds.”

Flight attendant Lareina Su during a training demonstration. Cathay Pacific has launched a major recruitment drive in mainland China to help rebuild cabin crew numbers in the wake of the coronavirus. Photo: Dickson Lee

Ng added the airline had an increasing number of Mandarin-speaking passengers, not only coming in and out of the mainland, but also across the entire network.

Cathay held its first recruitment event on the mainland last August and shortlisted 600 candidates for interview from more than 2,000 applicants and aimed to recruit 200 to 300 cabin crew from across the border that year.

Candidates are required to be proficient in English and fluent in at least one Asian language.

Three Cathay cabin crew members were fired last May after they were accused of mocking a mainland passenger who wanted a blanket, but spoke in English and asked for a carpet instead.

But the airline brushed aside suggestions at the mainland recruitment event that it had been organised because of the incident.

The airline suffered a shortage of manpower after it had laid off 5,300 people in October 2020 and shut its regional airline Dragonair as part of a desperate restructuring to help survive the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

About 4,000 cabin crew, 600 pilots, and 700 ground staff and office workers were made redundant in the HK$2.2 billion (US$281.2 million) cost-cutting exercise.

The carrier later launched a massive recruitment drive to make up the shortfall and planned to hire 5,000 workers in 2024, in addition to the 4,000 taken on last year.

A shortage of pilots has forced Cathay to cancel more than 160 flights since last Christmas Eve. The airline has since the start of the month cut flights by an average of 12 a day, which will continue until February. It said the 27 flights axed on January 7 was the peak.

Hong Kong’s Cathay lines up 600 mainlanders to compete for 300 cabin crew jobs

Ng said Cathay aimed to have 10,000 flight attendants, including 1,500 from mainland China, by 2025. She added recruits from across the border would be the airline’s second major source of staff after Hong Kong.

Ng said 1,000 cabin crew were recruited in 2023 including from the city, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.

She added the 100 mainland staff, all recruited through the August event in Shenzhen, would be based in Hong Kong and had completed their seven weeks of training and examination.

“I am very satisfied with the performance of the flight attendants recruited from the mainland as they are especially diligent during the training,” Ng said.

She said the new staff received the same training and attended classes with the other new hires from different parts of the world, and communicated with each other in English.

Ng explained that the new staff, in line with other cabin crew, would not be limited to mainland routes, but fly around the globe.

New joiners could expect to earn HK$17,000 to HK$20,000 a month if they fulfilled the required flying hours.

Ng said the airline had organised other recruitment events on the mainland, including one in Beijing and another in Guangzhou this month. She added she was confident the company could hire more cabin crew, even with strong competition for staff from other airlines.

Hiring plan could help Hong Kong’s Cathay ‘compete for mainland Chinese travel market’

Harry Wu, from Nanjing in Jiangsu province, is one of the new cabin staff. He said he had worked for a European airline for four years on the mainland after he graduated in 2017.

“I first took a flight on Cathay Pacific in 2011 from Shanghai to Brisbane and changed flights in Hong Kong,” he said. “The dedicated and professional attitude of the flight attendants at that time left a strong impression on me.”

He said his first assignment was a return leg to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from Hong Kong last Monday and he had mistaken the Cantonese word for “blanket” for the Mandarin for “towel”.

But he added he would brush up on his Cantonese through practising with colleagues and watching television dramas.

Lareina Su who graduated from a Canadian university last year, said she joined the airline mostly because of its diverse staff and proximity to her hometown in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

She said she was pleased to learn that she had been assigned to flight routes to a variety of countries she had never visited.

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