Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. is considering hiring options to combat an exodus of pilots from Hong Kong, senior executives said at a town hall Thursday, according to a person who attended the meeting.
The carrier’s top management, including chief operations and service delivery officer Greg Hughes, told staff that an initial spike in pilot resignations last November had remained at high levels through January and is expected to continue to be high in coming months, the person said.
In an emailed response, Cathay said it “will do everything we can to maintain vital connections for passengers and cargo into and out of Hong Kong, including retaining, hiring and rehiring current and former Cathay pilots in Hong Kong.”
“We have already resumed our pilot recruitment activities and this has generated significant interest within the Hong Kong pilot community and around the world,” the airline added.
Hong Kong remains wedded to a Covid-zero strategy, isolated alongside China as the world’s biggest holdouts as other nations learn to live with the virus. A resurgence in community infections in the once-vibrant Asian financial hub, coupled with fresh curbs on a wide range of activities, continues to wear on the city’s residents.
To combat the exodus in the cockpit, Cathay said it plans to hire back all available ex-pilots from its now-defunct sister airline Cathay Dragon by the end of March, without specifying the total, adding to the 130 it recently brought back, the person said. A further 140 new cadets will undergo training this year and ex-graduate aircrew will be taken on, the person added.
Airlines globally are replenishing pilot ranks as the industry looks beyond the pandemic and there are renewed concerns about an industry shortage of talent. A global survey published this week found around one-third of commercial pilots still aren’t flying for a living.
Cathay recently said it intended to hire several hundred pilots in 2022 to prop up sagging morale. As of the end of last year, Cathay employed approximately 2,700 pilots, down from more than 3,100 in early 2021.
On Monday, Cathay said it was on track to report its first half-year profit since 2019, cushioning its ongoing pandemic losses. The airline is only operating at around 2% of pre-Covid passenger capacity and only a fifth for cargo.
During Thursday’s town hall, Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Sharpe also told staff to keep a tight grip on spending, reminding attendees that appropriate cash management remained critical and urging everyone to make cash preservation part of an everyday conversation.
The airline has ruled out forcing staff to take pay cuts or unpaid leave.