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Why I turned down Cathay Pacific (SO Transition)

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Why I turned down Cathay Pacific (SO Transition)

Old 31st Dec 2011, 08:47
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Why I turned down Cathay Pacific (SO Transition)


I had been offered an interview for the Second Officer Transition course with Cathay Pacific and I had made the decision to turn them down.
I would like to convey to you all the reasons why I have turned them down in the hope that this will help other pilots going for the job with their decision.
Please be aware that I turned this down several months ago...but the information is still valid.

About two years ago, a similar thread was written by someone who had also turned down Cathay. This was very well written, however, my writing skills are
certainly not as good, so please bear with me.
A few things have changed at Cathay since that post was written, so I wanted to try and give some of you an update as to why this offer is still not particularly enticing.

That thread (as far as Im aware) was for one of the longer courses, however this one is purely about the 12 week SO Transition course.
I still maintain that the long course (and the lower pay) is still an excellent way to go for someone with no flying experience. The 4 years as an SO can be pretty
much considered your GA (general aviation) time, and is well suited to someone in their early 20's. However, for someone who is older and has experience, it is
a different story.

But I will do my best to explain it to you. Please also note that I have conducted an ENORMOUS amount of research into this...(I dont suffer from shiny jet syndrome).

Because I operate in Australia, there are alot of references and comparisions to Australia and Australian based airlines. Although this may not be of much use
to people from other countries, there are a huge amount of Aussies and Kiwis that look at Cathay, so this is more based for them.

I am an 31 year old guy single guy living in Australia. I have approx 3000TT and am currently an FO on a Q400 Dash8 based in Sydney and flying throughout News South Wales and Victoria.
I am looking at a command within the next 2 months, so life is good right now.
Although there are many low-time guys out their who are not in the same "boat" as I am, I do believe that there are many experienced guys out there that are having a good look at Cathay as a career path. I hope that what I have discovered helps provide some insight for them.

Throughout my career Cathay Pacific has always been my goal and my target. "One day Im going to be living the Cathay dream!!!" This is what I always used to say to my flying buddies.

A while ago, I was invited to an interview with Cathay Pacific. I was very excited, but also cautious as I had always followed the Fragrant Harbour thread and was aware of the new Terms and Conditions at Cathay. However, there was so much junk posted on PPRuNe about the money that I rang up the recruitment department to get the figures straight from them.

I know that these figures have been mentioned time and time again, however for the purpose of this post I will list them again.

Second Officer Total Package
This includes a 875,000HKD "loan" that is forgiven after 6 years and is available to So Transition pilots.
I have taken this amount, divided it by 6 years and then by 12 months to include it in my monthly salary. Please note I have not included any portion of the forgiveable loan in the FO salary as I reakon that I would have spent it all by then.
This is pretty much everything you get, except for the local currency given to you for food on a layover

Year 1: 60,839 HKD a month (50,497 after tax)
Year 2: 66,783
Year 3: 72,139
Junior FO: 83,287
First Officer: 93,496

Please note that this is pre-tax dollars. You will need to take out approximately 17% of the abovementioned figures to get the real figure. It has been mentioned that tax on your first year is a "once off double amount", however, as I was looking at Cathay as a career move I chose not to take that into account.

A little while ago, the famous Housing Allowance was discontinued for new hires, and was replaced by a "Hong Kong Pilot Allowance" of 10,000HKD a month for SO and Junior FO and 14,000HKD a month for FO. Please note that this has already been put into the above figures.

The old Housing Allowance was (and I may not be correct to the dollar) about 30,000(ish)HKD per month for your first year and went up to approx 70,000(ish)HKD per month after 4 years. This basically allowed guys to live "rent free" whilst at Cathay. Some would then buy a place and this Housing Allowance would simply pay off their mortgage for them. After 20 odd years at Cathay, these guys had enjoyed a salary similar to major airlines in the developed world, whilst living rent free and having Cathay pay off their mortgage for them.

The current Pilot Allowance of 10,000 a month, then 14,000 a month...then up to 36,000 a month after about 20 years with Cathay simply will not allow you to do this.
Unlike the old Housing Allowance, this new 'Pilot Allowance' is not factored into inflation - which means as inflation occurs annually, the value of the 'Pilot
Allowance' becomes less and less.

Ive accepted that the days of all the old A scalers and B scalers is over....so I think to myself..."No problem, I just want to be comfortable and live a nice lifestyle".
So I looked at rent and buying a place as well.

With a roomie, I found some nice places in DB (Discovery Bay). These were about 800-900 square feet, 2 bed and 2 bathroom for about 28,000HKD a month. These places were not really flash, but they wernt dodgy, they were about normal, and in a half decent area. So paying 14,000HKD a month each, that is 30% of my salary going just to rent.
And that is with a roomie paying the other half!
But thats no problem....because you are not an SO for life, so I looked long term as an FO (it takes about 5 years to get to FO after joining). By then I will prob have a wife and maybe one or two kids. So I'll need a bigger place. Moving away from DB and going to some other cheaper areas I found some nice 1200 square feet, 3 bedroom 2 bathroom places for about 35,000HKD a month. On my FO wage of 93,496 a month that is still 35% of my salary!!

So I looked at buying a place....

The first 2 bedroom place for 28,000HKD a month cost 7,500,000HKD to buy (about 925,000AUD). The mortgage repayments with only 2.75% interest was only 25,000HKD a month! Not too bad, me thinks......but then I looked at the deposit required. 30%....that is 2,250,000HKD (about 280,000AUD)!!!!
Boys, I dont have that sorta money. I spent the first half of my 20's funding my flying training and have only come out of GA a coupla years back.
No probs...I'll save for it!!

Saving consistently for 7 years (for the deposit for the first smaller 2 bedroom apartment) will cost me about 26,000HKD a month. I cant do it....looking at my SO salary, the numbers just wont add up. I'll have to wait 5 years until Im an FO to really start saving, but by then, I might need that bigger apartment I was mentioning earlier....

After some "mini saving" as an SO and some "bigger saving" as an FO, I will be ready to put down the deposit on the bigger place for my family probably about the time that I am getting close to command. It will have taken me about 10-11 years to save for the deposit for my first place. I'll be 42 years old and entering into a 20year mortgage.
Boys....Im an Aussie and owning our own place is a big "psychological must" for us. I love flying, and Id love to fly for Cathay......but I didn't get into this game
to be able to finally afford a small apartment at 42 years old and still be paying it off by the time I reach 60.

For a bloke with experience, going into an airline as an SO can be a hard thing. Not only do you have to sit and watch the other guys do the fun stuff, but you are also effectively tying yourself to that airline until you get a good 1-2 years of experience as an FO as most airlines throughtout the world do not accept P3 time. (That's SO time). If I started flying for Cathay today it means that no other major airline would really look at my "Cathay jet time" until I had been there for about 6-7 years.
I dont have any jet time, and without jet time, your options througout the world with other carriers can be very very limited. If I joined Cathay, my other options
(or escape route) would be still be unobtainable for 6-7 years from today.
For a bloke with about 3000TT and coming up for a Q400 command, my prospects outside of Cathay are pretty good. I have Virgin and Jetstar at home, or other LCC A320 carriers throughout Asia that pay ok, but will give me a command within 2-3 years. The pay then is very good....and if you combine that with living in a developing country, your lifestlye goes up, your overheads go way down, and you save a fortune!!
Other options then include the big boys like Emirates, Etihad, Vietnam Airlines etc etc....

Other expenditures:
Other things in Hong Kong can in fact be quite cheap. Like Singapore, HKG is a city where you have the ability to live rather frugaly or spend a fortune. I have lived in plenty of different countries throughout Europe, Scandinavia and Asia. I dont need to spend a fortune on western food. I eat the local tucker in the outside resturants. This is great because:
1. It is cheap
2. I am cheap
3. It is healthy, and
4. I hate cooking (because I am lazy).

Other costs such as mobile phone, electricity, water and household items such as dishwashing liquid, soap etc are all about the same as you would find in Oz, NZ, UK and Singas.

Public transport is dirt cheap, so you definately save money on not having a car.

You would most likely not be able to live like a local completely. So you will probably have, or indulge in, a couple of home tastes. These of course will be very expensive, but essential for the expat.

So to conclude.
If you choose to go down the SO transition path you will be working for an excellent airline, that will provide you with a clear and defined career path.
Unfortunately, however, whilst the money is still the same, the absence of the Housing Allowance means that you will be getting paid the same amount of money that you would at Virgin Australia or Jetstar to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, with some of the highest housing costs in the world. If it was direct entry FO, you would probably do it as, after 2-3 years you can bugger off to Emirates, Vietnam etc, or back home. But as an SO, you are going to be there for a long long time until you can get out, and not take a hit in your career.

Living in Hong Kong on the current package that Cathay Pacific offers will provide you with a comfortable lifestyle. You probably wont need to eat noodles every night, but you wont be able to live the Hong Kong expat version of the CUB (cashed up bogan)!!
You will survive, you will exist.

Im not afraid to live outside Australia and I dont really miss my Mummy and get homesick. But if Im going to live in another country, I dont want to just survive.
I dont want to just exist. I want to live a slightly nicer lifestyle than I can back home. But this current package wont allow me to do that.....so then I ask myself...whats the point in giving my career to Cathay??? If they are paying the same amount as Virgin and Jetstar, then it kinda defeats the purpose of going to Cathay in the first place!!!

Cathay Pacific is not a career building airline.....it is a career airline. If you go there, you need to go there for a long time to get any worth out of it, and the
job would be great, but the money......that is what stopped me.

Im sure that many reading this would disagree with what I have said, however, I am sure that many would agree. I do not want to discourage people joining Cathay as I still believe that it is a great airline and I do hope, that one day, I may get to work for them. But at the end of the day, after your flying to San Francisco for the 115th time, staying in the hotel there for the 115th time, then flying back home to HKG for the 823rd time, its not the job that matters....its the money and the lifestyle....and on the current offering, Cathay Pacific would not be able to provide me with the moderate lifestyle that I would want to live in an asian country.

I think Cathay would be an awesome place to work.....but the removal of the Housing Allowance.....it killed it for me. It killed my Cathay dream.

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Old 31st Dec 2011, 13:03
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Good D there Eternity....and good luck with your career in Oz......

I was offered a cadetship....bit of an insult really as a 35 year old with 5000 hours, but I won't lose any sleep over Cathay or any other airline. I turned it down simply for the reasons you stated. I feel sorry for young guys getting into this now. It is simply not worth it. The future is LCC'S along with low terms and conditions.

I need TP for my...........
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 01:08
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Thumbs down

I have flown with a few of these iCadets, and while they are nice enough guys, they either have a unique circumstance (i.e. wife got trans with a bank to Hong Kong, etc), or they are kids with their heads in the clouds.

Listen up youngin's! These are not all sour grapes here! We are trying to give you all a heads up on what's waiting.

You are a darned fool to come on 10,000 HKD housing.

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Old 1st Jan 2012, 08:03
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It's not just the housing. This is spreading through the rest of the company. People keep saying that Cathay would be a great place to work, but they can't afford to come because the housing allowance is no longer what it used to be. However, you need to realise that this this cheap-skating, penny-pinching, management-bonus-serving attitude is company-wide. Worse hotels, nasty rostering, stagnant salaries, etc etc. Open your eyes.
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 21:18
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Your maths was a bit off, also some of your other info.

First year SO, once online flying 84 credit hours would get the following

Monthly - $35,170
HKPA - $10,000
Hourly Flying Pay (84 hours) - $3,500
Total - $48,670

If you divide up that $875,000, and add it to the monthly calculated above, you earn $729,875 a year gross. In HKG the first $108,000 is tax free, the total tax liability on $729,875 is around $93,718, you would have a Nett income of around $636,157, or $53,013.14 monthly.

This would be equivalent to AUD$6,855 a month after tax, or around $115,000 P.A. before tax. This is the entry level position.

You do not need 30% deposit, it depends on what you buy. The Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation helps a lot of people out making up the difference between the 70% mark and the 95% mark, all you need to come up with is 5% deposit, and $875,000 would hit that mark. If you were to buy, you get an additional tax benefit of around $100,000.

GovHK: Tax Computation of Salaries Tax and Personal Assessment
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Old 1st Jan 2012, 22:13
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You have made the mistake of using the HKIRD’s tax calculator which doesn’t calculate provisional tax. I’m sure you are very well aware the effect this will have on someone’s first year tax bill.
Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation helps a lot of people out making up the difference between the 70% mark and the 95% mark, all you need to come up with is 5% deposit
That is incorrect. A 10% deposit is still required and you have failed to mention the changes to the scheme introduced by the HKMC on the 11th June 2011 after they lowered the cap on property values that can be covered under the scheme.

The Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation Ltd
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Old 2nd Jan 2012, 00:35
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You have made the mistake of using the HKIRD’s tax calculator which doesn’t calculate provisional tax. I’m sure you are very well aware the effect this will have on someone’s first year tax bill.
The first tax bill is normally issued the second year, around one year in arrears, and one in advance. I actually got my first tax bill in my third calendar year in HKG, with a year and a bit in arrears, and one in advance. I was asked to make that in two payments, first in the following Jan for about 70% of the total amount, the remainder about 3 months later.

My first tax bill was about 60k, I got paid less than todays TT cadets. Back then we used to get 6 months in the Headland when we started.

A 10% deposit
Okay, I got that wrong, it was 95% when I did it. With the 885k loan, they could easily still do a 6 mil property through HKMC, which still buys a fair bit in Disco Bay.
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Old 2nd Jan 2012, 09:54
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Of those I know who were potential iCADs or actual iCADs, the majority had links with HK already, be it parents with business links there, or a family crashpad, wife who can transfer to a HK based bank etc... Johnny Foriegner with no experience of HK and no links there don't figure.

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Old 3rd Jan 2012, 06:29
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You young guys (i-Cadets) thinking that you will be able to buy property in Hong Kong on the new C scale package are dreaming!! It will take you forever to save the required deposit!!

10K per month for housing is rubbish!!

Enjoy the struggle!!
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Old 3rd Jan 2012, 06:45
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Expat cabin crew get 8k HKD a month

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Old 4th Jan 2012, 07:04
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owning a property in hong kong is really really hard
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Old 5th Jan 2012, 23:05
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right decision


Congrats to your decision - you made the right one... When I was accepted at CX I was about your age, had similar hours and flew a similar aircraft BUT there was no way I would have joined under the current conditions on offer. I already had a few mates in CX and I couldn't have lived the with fact knowing they make double what I would have made with the iCadet transition gig for doing the same job.

You certainly got one thing right - if you leave home to become an expat it has to be worth it; you never leave to go overseas to make less money!!!

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Old 6th Jan 2012, 02:47
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I already had a few mates in CX and I couldn't have lived the with fact knowing they make double what I would have made with the iCadet transition gig for doing the same job.
Exactly. Most of us have friends or ex-colleges who'd we'd love to see join us in CX, but who turned away this disrespectful offer.

In fact, it used to be a fairly common occurrence that recruiting was done through word of mouth and recommendations. Whatever legends or aura that exists around Cathay Pacific developed because we were able to hire from the top shelf around the world. Nobody in their right mind would recommend this deal to a friend who has any kind of experience or skill-set.

The irony of it all is that the ones with the spine, brain and judgement to walk away from this deal are the exact pilots we should be hiring. They're the ones who have what it takes to make decisions at 38,000' when facing a nightmare scenario.

But beggars can't be choosers.
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Old 8th Jan 2012, 02:38
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Sounds great... I can be cabin crew in a pilots uniform for 4 years for minimum wage... were do I sign?
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Old 19th Jan 2012, 16:56
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well the goodnews is now CX is in Pakistan trying to recruit cadets there, the business class pax will love it when these guys pray to mecca infront of them at 5 am
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Old 20th Jan 2012, 22:52
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Oh boy. If Cathay goes down this road, I am not hanging around to see how this ends.

Oh, and don't worry icadets, they are looking for pilots in Pakistan, because the package you have signed on for is top notch.
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Old 21st Jan 2012, 19:00
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Imagine them flying with a female captain, a jewish first officer from the states and an Indian ISM
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Old 22nd Jan 2012, 01:38
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You have an interesting approach to it all.

Take what I say with a grain of salt. I am not a pilot, but older than you and have a good career in a well respected profession (on the ground).

First, you cannot put a price on clean air. HK doesn't have that.

Second, the SQ A380 decision is already suffering blowback. All new ships have a risk of having problems but this is going to be a huge pr problem for SQ (and others). After AF447, QF 32 and the cracks, the public is starting to see Airbus like they see ... well you know ...

Third, you may not get married and have children, but sound like the kind of guy who wants to do that, which is great. If that's the case isn't Aust. one of the best places to do that? Is QF hiring guys like you?

Fourth, there will be a marked flattening or even decrease in traffic in the next 20 years from Western Countries - so factor that in. We are in for a long recession as long as governments do their best to keep zombies alive and prop up unproductive assets like housing (when they should be propping up new productive industry)

Fifth, if you do decide to go with Cathay you can always live in a boat in the harbor, surely?

Sixth, you are right in thinking for yourself, because no employer, no matter what their reputation will ever do that for you. They owe duties to their stockholders above all else.

Best of luck to you.
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Old 1st Feb 2012, 09:55
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Advanced entry SO

Hi, I was invited to the initial interview-advanced entry SO. I apreciate if you could answer some doubts that I have please:

-housing price in HK
-during 32 week training, if I fail should I pay somenthing?
-what would I get for the 885k?
-do they give you a TR?
-is it possible to upgrade to FO earlier because of the new a/c arriving?
-that hours as SO counts as normal ones?

Thanks a lot.
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Old 1st Feb 2012, 11:54
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and again...


I don't want to accuse you of being a lazy Spaniard but someone else might do so sooner or later. All the info has been discussed to death on this forum but I am happy to give you some short and concise answers.

Further to cater for your laziness I have converted everything into € and m2 where applicable so you don't need to make the effort to think or possibly do a currency conversion.

-housing price in HK
### mega expensive, HK is the most expensive city in the world - to buy you are looking at €250, €500 and €1000 per square meter for a flat in a shit, average and nice area respectively - for renting you are looking at €10, €15 and €50 per square meter.

-during 32 week training, if I fail should I pay somenthing?
### yes, everything - see previous threads about the new contract.

-what would I get for the 885k?
### 88500 Euros minus tax.

-do they give you a TR?
### No, you get a P2X rating which is valid above 20000ft; it is totally useless outside Hong Kong and not recognized anywhere else in the world.

-is it possible to upgrade to FO earlier because of the new a/c arriving?
### No, strict seniority and upgrades are running at 4 years at the moment and might come down by a few months - new aircraft are mainly replacement since HKG is running out of slots.

-that hours as SO counts as normal ones?
### No, totally useless hours - see your question about the TR.

Hope this helps...


Last edited by AQIS Boigu; 1st Feb 2012 at 13:32.
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