South Asia and Far East WannabesA forum for those applying to Cathay Pacific, Dragonair or any other Hong Kong-based airline or operator. Use this area for both Direct Entry Pilot and Cadet-scheme queries.
Just putting it out there to see in any non ID card holding AE or TT candidates have been interview recently? I see locals are still going through for the Ab initio entry so they haven't stopped recruiting completely.
A friend of mine said on the weekend that CX HR will probably wake up one morning and realise that they are 100 SO's short and will start interviewing like mad again.
I don't normally spend time writing on forums, but I figure that this info might come in handy to someone out there looking for real answers. Now that I've lived in Hong Kong, and worked for Cathay for over a year, I can tell you how it really is. There's a lot of info here, so feel free to read in depth. I'm not bullshitting you, this is my experience:
I am a professional, and had a profession prior to Cathay. I have another career path to compare with. I had an office job, working 40-hour weeks in a technology related position. By taking a job with Cathay, and moving to Hong Kong my lifestyle is worse than it was in my previous career. Why did I take the job in the first place? I had set a life goal of becoming a professional pilot, and I thought that I was joining the best company out there. I based a lot of my decision on the Cathay name. I had the impression that they are the kind of company you join, and never think about getting another flying job. I had talked to other Cathay pilots, and they had generally good perspectives, but the Cadet Pilot Program was new, and they didn't know about the changes in the compensation package. They were all on expat pay packages, so their housing was a big chunk of money, and the cost of living was significantly lower. When they joined, they could afford a "decent" home by Hong Kong standards straightaway. I thought that the pay would be good, because compared to my home country it is good for a low-time pilot, but looking ahead to FO and beyond, I see that what seemed to be a gain in the short term turns out to be a very big loss in the long term.
If I had the chance to go back and join Cathay again, I would not. I would stay in my previous career, or find a different avenue for being a pilot in my home country.
Read on if you want to know why.
I'll start with the big gorilla - HOUSING. Hong Kong is literally one of the most expensive cities in the world for housing costs. Why? There's a limited supply, and the Mainland Chinese use it as an investment opportunity, driving prices sky-high. There is a lot of greed in this city. This also increases the risk of a housing bubble, which means that if you are fortunate enough to actually buy something here, you might end up losing all your money when prices go down. Ok, so what are current prices like? Let me give you Tung Chung as an example. TC is close to the Airport, very convenient for work, and is also less expensive than other parts of Hong Kong, because it's a long way from the action of places like Central, TST, Lan Kwai Fong, etc. It's also cheaper because it's a long commute to work for locals who work in Central or Kowloon.
Walk through this with me... To get a rough estimate of prices here, just go to the HSBC valuation tool website: Property Valuation Tool - HSBC in Hong Kong Let's look up a practical example for a new SO, just moving to Hong Kong and wanting to get their first place, a 575 usable sqft place in Caribbean Coast, Tung Chung: Look up the following: Zone: New Territories/Island; District: Lantau/Outlying Islands; Estate Name: Caribbean Coast; Block/Building: Phase 3, Tower 10; Floor: 35; Flat/Unit: C Result: 4.86 Million HKD, or about $613,000AUD or $627,000USD. These places don't even have closet spaces or wardrobes. That will be extra, thank you. Total cash on hand needed to purchase? Letís do the math: The Down Payment requirement is currently 10%. There are two Stamp Duties (Tax): Normal, calculated here: Stamp Duty Computation (Landed Properties) - Property Transfer and an additional stamp duty of 15% for non-permanent residents like you and me. That new stamp duty came out in Oct 2012. There are also miscellaneous costs, such as solicitors fees, and agent fees. Weíll estimate those at about another $40,000HKD.
So we get: $486,000+$145,800+$729,000+$40,000=$1,400,800HKD (i.e. $181,000USD CASH)
You're out of the market, and it's going up faster than your income, so you'll never get in. As a result, you'll end up always paying rent, and end up with little in the way of assets when it comes time for retirement. I don't think you want to come to Hong Kong for that. That's where a lot of our guys are sitting right now. It takes 7 years to become a permanent resident in Hong Kong. In 7 years, the prices of flats could easily double or even triple, so by the time you can get the 15% stamp duty waived, it's too late anyway. Mind you, this is for 575 square feet of cement walls and tile floors. Nothing in the way of comfort. If you want a "livable" place of, say 1000 sqft, look up an A or H unit in Caribbean Coast, those are proper 1000 sqft places. That will cost you close to $8.5million HKD, the down payment will be more like 30%, Stamp duties will be higher, andÖ you get the picture. When pilots who have expat benefits joined, many were able to purchase a place to live not long after arriving because of assistance from Cathay. There were loan programs that would help them finance up to 100%, so they didnít even need to try to save up while squandering money on rent. The situation now is a terrible, terrible mess.
Ok, so say you actually DO have the cash to buy a place in Hong Kong, let's take a look at some other aspects of life here:
POOR QUALITY GOODS Goods are expensive compared to the same product in a western country (read Australia, New Zealand, USA). You buy a mop, it breaks. You buy an air conditioning unit, it falls apart after a couple years. You buy ANYTHING, and you'll find that the quality is just not the same. And, you will pay a premium if it's not common in Hong Kong. Oh, did I mention that if you want to buy something unique, you will struggle with the local shop keeper just trying to communicate what it is that you want? I decided I want to do some remodeling--a little painting, and put up some shelves. So, let's go get a roller and paint... Paint was easy to find. But, decent painting tools? Not as easy. I ended up buying them in Oz at Bunnings, and bringing it all back in a suitcase. It's cool that I can do that, but you can't carry 2X4s in a suitcase... You just can't beat jumping in the car or truck, heading down to the local hardware store, picking up some goods, getting courteous, professional service and advice, and driving back home. You can't do that here. It's not possible.
FOOD is a real RISK here. If it's from China, the cost is maybe equivalent to a western country, maybe a little cheaper. BUT, there is a huge health risk. The Chinese do some scary things to food products in their country. You don't have the same quality control as western countries. They will dye greens so they look fresh. They will dye meat so it looks fresh. It is a risk when shopping at the store. You don't know where it comes from, and you don't know if it's safe to eat. There is also the option of buying food products from western countries, such as Australia or NZ, but it is expensive because of shipping. There is also the risk of food quality due to pollution. You just don't know what kind of field that Chinese cabbage was grown in. Was it watered from the local river that had a shoe factory upstream? If it comes from China, there is a good chance this is the case.
Speaking of POLLUTION, look up "China Pollution" on Google and take a long look at the images there. Hong Kong isn't as bad as Mainland China, but their wind blows our direction. The air quality is getting worse, because we are so close to Shenzhen and Zhuhai. They are industrial cities, and have all the ailments of Chinese industry. There are days that coworkers won't even let their kids out of the house because the pollution index to too high. On a plus note, it makes for beautiful sunsets.
Speaking of HEALTH, one issue with Hong Kong is that the medical facilities are not like western countries. In some ways, Hong Kong has world-class medical care. Need surgery? Fantastic. Need a specialist? No problem. Kid broke his arm and you need help fast from someone who speaks good English? Uh, not so easy. Getting to an "emergency room" is not a simple task. If one of our children was injured here, the task of getting them treated isn't quite so straightforward. If you call an ambulance, what number do you call? Easy - 999. Will they speak English on the other end of the line, and understand what you're saying? Not really. Will they know where you are located? Hope you can say your location in Cantonese. When it comes to emergency medical care, there are always things lost in translation. That brings us to the cultural differences in medical practices, such as when it comes to having a baby. If you go to a public hospital, they will not allow your spouse to join you for support the birth. The woman is on her own, in a room with 2-5 other women also giving birth, all screaming in a foreign language she doesn't understand. A friend of mine was denied access to his wife and child multiple times during the labor and birth. It was either after "visiting hours" or some other reason... Cathay's insurance doesn't pay for maternity costs at all. That'll cost you $40,000+ if you go anywhere other than a public hospital.
Let's talk about the job, and in particular the Roster. Being a pilot is no longer the wonderful career it once was. It is now a blue-collar job. It used to be the case that an SO had all the time in the world, but no money. Part of that has changed. Hereís the new reality: ALL new joiners are going to the Airbus fleet, and they're ALL starting on the A330. That has the worst roster of all possible rosters at Cathay. Most of the flying is overnight, and with 3 crew members, meaning you sleep for 3 hours and work for 8. Those two factors mean that you will experience constant fatigue, an irregular sleep schedule (for the rest of your life), and increased risk for health issues. Try going to sleep in an armchair at 11pm, and getting up at 2am and flying a plane for 8 hours. Thatís what itís like every time you fly. What about rest during layovers? The company policy is that 24-hour layovers should be avoided because they cause significant fatigue, because you can't get normal sleep during a 24 hour period - When you arrive, you are tired and may sleep 8 hours, but when you wake up, you have 16 hours, and trying to sleep another 8 hours after being awake 8 hours doesn't work well. The next sign-on time will be exactly when your body says itís bedtime again. That means even if your return trip to Hong Kong is a day trip, you still feel like sleeping. Thatís exactly what most Airbus layovers are like. In fact, itís what most layovers are like for CX pilots are in general. For comparison, cabin crew generally get twice as many days for layovers (and of course twice the allowance as well). You will suffer health consequences as a result of these rostering practices. I have literally felt myself age more in the past 1-2 years than in the 4 years prior. I have gotten sick more often. Currently the company is trying to revise the flight time limitations (FTLs), and they won't make it easier on pilots. They don't need to revise FTLs to do that. Cathayís rostering practices are also such that you wonít know what youíre doing next month until 15 days prior. Not so at many other airlines. Not knowing what your next month's roster is until the 15th makes planning with friends or family early in the month difficult. It keeps you from having that quality time you need to stay healthy and happy.
Letís take a closer look at the long-term finances of the compensation package. The cost of living is increasing dramatically in Hong Kong, the pay scale does not increase much from year to year, and the "Hong Kong Pilot Allowance" does not make up the difference, or increase with inflation. So, give it another year and you'll effectively be making less than you are now. Your spouse could try to get a job in Hong Kong, but it'll be very hard to get a decent paying job without very good Mandarin and Cantonese, a good degree, and a lot of luck. With that job will come 12-hour days, 5 days a week, with half-days on Saturday. That's how Hong Kong rolls. Why come to a foreign country for this? Not worth it. People come to Hong Kong for a major financial opportunity over their home country. That incentive is no longer there. And, they usually only come to HK for a few short years, not a full career.
In Summary, Had I the chance to do it over again, I would not join Cathay. Speaking from experience, I honestly can sit here and recommend that you avoid joining this company. It is not worth it. I would look for other opportunities, or stick with my previous career field. Make flying a hobby instead. Youíll be happier. Why don't I just leave? In the human resources business, they have a term called "iron handcuffs." That aptly describes the contract with Cathay. Once you sign it, you can't leave early without a significant cash outlay, which of course no one can afford, so the only thing you can do is ride out the term of your contract, with the hope that there will be good opportunities later on. The bottom line is in order to have a good life you need to have a good family and social life. In order to do that, you need to have plenty of time and money. This job does not meet Western standards in this respect.The future will only get worse as they continue to search for the rock-bottom price they can pay for a pilot.
Jetpilot213, From what I can tell by your post, your office job gave you a housing allowance that far outweighed the one Cathay Pacific is offering you currently. Also all the problems you mentioned about Hong Kong were not there before and somehow CX has managed to bring all those into your life as well. Learn to adapt and learn to manage your money better.
I will say that the pollution in the city areas is much worse but nothing too serious that you end up dead in 10 years. There is a magical place called Sham Shui Po to cater to all your hardware needs for super cheap.
I'll make it very simple, HK can be the most expensive city if you make it out to be that way. If you expect to eat out at fancy restaurants daily then you have noone but yourself to blame... You can learn to fly a fancy jet but can't learn to cook. If I make the cut I'd accept right away. The whole world's economy is going to shit and noone is going to pay to train you and then hire you afterwards. There are people in HK living on HKD 5000 a month or less.
Mediums, I'm a bit surprised by your comments. It doesn't seem like you realize that I have a family to provide for, or that you may have one to provide for in the future, too. Not even cabin crew live off $5000 hkd per month, and they get a free place to stay in the Gold Coast. That is below the poverty level. The job of a Cathay pilot is not a job you trust to someone who can only sweep the street. It's a professional job. It is a job for those who are able to handle the decision making and responsibilities that come with the job. And, the pay should be commensurate with the responsibility. Also, it should be commensurate with the money you are making for the company. The company effectively cut new joiner's pay in half compared to just a few years ago, but I can guarantee that someone in the higher echelons got a fat bonus for doing so. Is that the system you are so desperate to join?
I handle my finances quite well. The only debts I have are my home, and all payments are made on time. We usually cook at home, and the last time I went to a fancy restaurant was when I took my wife out for Valentine's day. When I say the food is expensive, I'm talking about going out and buying good, clean quality produce and cooking at home. I didn't even mention eating out. I'm not an excessive spender. My take-home between Cathay and my previous job are very similar. Yet, the lifestyle in Hong Kong does not compare with the lifestyle back home.
Sure, the smog and particulate in the air and the water won't kill me in 10 years, but neither will smoking 5 packs of cigarettes per day. But, it could put me in a wheel chair sooner, with lung disease. What about the more subtle effects of those chemicals on brain function? How about the long term effects on your muscles? How about on the development of my children? And, since I like to stay fit, it's a concern because going for a run means I'm breathing in that stuff at a more rapid rate. When we descent from FL390, into Hong Kong there is a point when you can SMELL the Hong Kong air coming in the cockpit. Let me just say it is not a refreshing smell. When I get off the plane in places like Adelaide, that air smells clean and fresh. There is a very very very significant difference. But, if you've lived in Hong Kong your whole life, you don't realize this because Hong Kong is all you know.
Sham Shui Po is not equivalent to a Bunnings or Home Depot. You can waste a lot of time wandering from shop to shop, looking for goods that just don't have the same level of quality. And, the people lack expertise. Sure, you can find super cheap stuff, but if I wanted to live a "super cheap" life, why come to Hong Kong? I could get a low paying job in my own country, and live a much better life. Why would anyone leave their home country and family for a worse opportunity? Let me say, I thought this was going to be a good opportunity, but with the experience I have gained, I can say that it is not. Even I can't argue with my own experience.
Let me say this, if you're from Hong Kong, they KNOW that you'll take the job, because you're desperate for anything. They know you would live at home with mom and dad who would still pay your bills and make your dinner. They will take advantage of this as much as they can. A bit racist, don't you think?
Jetpilot213 thanks for the insight. I was wondering if you can provide more information?
What is the current payscale like is it anything like the document CX sends you before the interview? What do you actually take home? Do you have a breakdown of your budget? Would it make a difference if you had joined the AE or TT program with the extra money you can claim?
I tried the online tax calculator figured I would take home HKD36 000 a month in the first year. That's for a married couple without children, providing for the next years provisional payment and not taking the flight pay into account. I calculated that once I get upgraded to JFO I should get HKD58 000. Is that anywhere near accurate?
Let me say this, if you're from Hong Kong, they KNOW that you'll take the job, because you're desperate for anything. They will take advantage of this as much as they can. A bit racist, don't you think?
I'm quiet confused by this statement. Are you saying its racist that they pay foreigners the same as locals?
And that it wouldn't be if they paid you more based on your race?
If Hong Kongers came to wherever you're from, and received an "Ex-pat package" would you be content?
I can sympathise with the rest of your concerns however and agree with them.
Tea-Towel, That comment was more so directed to Mediums because he eluded to the idea that he would take the job no matter what they offered him. Which, unfortunately if there are enough people like that will cause market pressure that further lowers the compensation package for new joiners.
To be clear, I don't think it's fair that the company pays two groups of people differently when they are doing the same job. On the contrary. What I am saying is that they will take advantage of locals and pay them less than foreigners and get away with it because locals are willing to take lower pay, and I don't think that's right. Not many foreigners will not come to Hong Kong for those terms, especially once they find out how the lifestyle compares to their home countries. I don't think it's fair that locals should get paid less than foreigners.
Let's look at the state of things prior to the new iCadet scheme: A "local" Ab-initio cadet joins without any housing allowance, and also does not receive other significant benefits, other than "training costs." An "expat" joins and gets full housing and other benefits. In the long term, it's not fair because the "local" will cost the company much less.
What happened next was an argument along the lines of: Local: "Hey, this isn't fair, they're getting paid more than us!" Company Management: "Ok, we'll fix that..." Company Management to Finance Department: "Lower the expat pay and benefits until it matches the locally employed package." Company Management: "Are you happy now?" Local: "Yeah, much better." (Ok, I'm using some satire here.)
Is that really what the local HK people had in mind??? Who would agree to that? Wouldn't it be better if the pay was increased to match the pay of the expat pilots? The issue is there are market drivers that cause Hong Kong people to accept lower pay across the board - in the Banking industry, the Real Estate industry, and the Aviation industry. So, even if the company can afford to pay higher wages, why would they if they have people begging to work for them on the cheap? Maybe racist is not quite the right term for what I'm talking about... What I'm trying to describe is how employers exploit employees on a cultural and socioeconomic basis. In Hong Kong they have a "captive audience" begging for jobs. But, they can't find enough locals who have the right stuff, so they need to recruit elsewhere, too. But, those who come from elsewhere have the kind of experience I've had once landing in Hong Kong - it's NOT an easy place to live. And a good standard of living is expensive here. What the locals should be saying is "DAMN RIGHT, and WE want better compensation TOO!" I think that many locals may be scared to lose what little they have instead of realizing they have only to gain by pushing back against unacceptable terms. The company likes a divided pilot cadre because special interest groups will just feud against each other and never make any real headway, all the while the company is reaping the profits of cheap labour. If everyone is singing the same tune, and actually ACTS on it, real change will happen. My suggestion? ALL who have been given an offer to join Cathay should contact the HKAOA to negotiate their Conditions of Service and compensation, BEFORE they sign any contract. There would be a SIGNIFICANT change in how things are done if that happened. And, Mediums, as long as you survive the gauntlet of interviews, tests, and flight grading that make up the selection process, I would fully welcome you to the big leagues, where you get big league pay, not $5000hkd per month.
Ok if thats how we going to go about it here I start. First off, dont get me wrong I am not a local and neither would like to because of the petty cultute they have in HK. My family owned quite a sizeable amount of land where Im from, pine trees are abundant there so dont expect me not to know the difference in the air. Any city that is developed fully will be polluted, we chose to move here for the oppurtnuties that this city provides you not saying there werent oppurtunities back there but the pay and benefits are nothing even close.
My point is you have to sacrifice something for something else. As for Corporate greed it has always been there and will be. I used to work for a company with a similar agenda as CX, ehen though I resigned and made a sizeable group take the struggle together... At the end of the day there was a queue of people outside willing to work for way less. If as you say your country is so much better off why not take a flying post there? I have wanted to be a pilot for a long time... The oppurtinities in HK are just CX or KA. Like any other big city with the convenience of 24 hours transport, shops, hospitals etc you can obviously expect to pay more for rent etc. Why would I take the job right away? Because I am humble enough and know that if it means it puts a few more extra meals on my family's table then why not? For your info Im living with my family of 6 in a 800sqft flat the rent is 7,500 hkd per month. We used to live in a double story over 5000sqft house.
If you are willing to make sacrifices and can cut costs to save up for a year or two live through hell... You can and will make it. The down payment is 10% on property and if you cant make that with CX pay then manage your money better, learn to adapt. I get maybe half of what you are getting and already have 5% of down payment saved up from struggling through a year. In the end choose what you want to do and believe. Yes being a pilot is a professional job blah blah... So are a lot of other jobs but they are also getting pay cuts year after year. Please do quit soon so someone else can take over, what one man can make with a select few raw materials may be very different from the other man.
If you are new to HK, Im happy to give advice but if you want your "expat" lifestyle I suggest moving to Hollywood which compares nth to HK and getting a reality check. Thank you!
ALL who have been given an offer to join Cathay should contact the HKAOA to negotiate their Conditions of Service and compensation, BEFORE they sign any contract. There would be a SIGNIFICANT change in how things are done if that happened.
Bring it on! The experience requirements would increase and we wouldn't be having these arguments because the inexperienced expats would not get a look in. Then a proper expat package could be paid, to "experienced expats", the way it used to be. We can only dream.
Last edited by crwkunt roll; 28th Feb 2013 at 23:48.
Bring it on! The experience requirements would increase and we wouldn't be having these arguments because the inexperienced expats would not get a look in. Then a proper expat package could be paid, to proper expats, the way it used to be. We can only dream.
CRW, please explain how working with the AOA would increase the experience requirements. Are you trying to discourage those who are considering a job with Cathay from consulting the only organization that can officially represent them? Cathay has been hiring locals with 0 hours for many years. What is your definition of a "proper" expat? Give me a good logical arguments for what you're saying.