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Reality check for those thinking of joining...

South Asia and Far East Wannabes A 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.

Reality check for those thinking of joining...

Old 10th Sep 2012, 21:19
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Everywhere
Posts: 3
Reality check for those thinking of joining...

Hi all

Sorry, very long post, but I've been staying quiet this whole time and just browsing the happenings in Hong Kong, but I feel like I have to speak up for anyone considering joining Cathay. I've been holding off on posting anything til I got the company off my back but here you go.

I joined cx last year via the TT program against my gut instincts and against everything I'd been hearing on PPRuNe. Just a bunch of whiners on PPRuNe who would be unhappy no matter where they work, I told myself. Turns out I was wrong and they were right. I should have gone with my gut and stayed far away from Cathay, so hopefully this post will give people something to think about.

I left CX after about 6 months for various reasons. Some are personal, so I won't get into that here, but others apply to everyone, and I think it's important that people know what they're getting into. The company you are joining is not the world class airline they like to lead everyone to believe, but still the same old company that brought us the 49ers saga. BTW read John Warham's book on the 49ers. I wish I did before I went. As for the reasons working at Cathay is not all you think it is, here are some things to consider:

- We all know Hong Kong's real estate is expensive, but it's a lot worse than you may think. Those apartments you see advertised within your budget look all shiny on the realtor websites. The reality is you will spend much more than your 10K "allowance" to live in something that is severely below the standard that you are used to living in the west.

- Enjoy any kind of outdoor activities? Well, you can kiss that goodbye, unless hiking in a concrete path past piles of garbage to some polluted beach is your idea of fun. Sure, you may think HK is a fun and exciting city. I know I did before I actually lived there. Then you realize that all there is to do is shopping and drinking. Music scene? Forget about it. Arts, culture? The only culture in HK is money. Besides, you won't be able to afford to do anything other than drink 7-11 beers on the sidewalk in Lan Kwai Fong

- If you have any kind of flying experience, you're in for a shock at your role in the cockpit. I can't blame the captains I flew with for treating me like I didn't know anything since they've probably been stuck with cadets with zero time sitting in the other seat. But if you're coming to cx with any kind of operational experience, you're gonna be pretty frustrated if the only things you're trusted to do on your own are to carry the document bag or eat sandwiches. Sitting in the right seat making radio calls to russian ATC does not make for a rewarding career.

- If you want to get based anywhere near where you're from, you may as well forget about that too. I know that right now the basing situation is up in the air, but I would not hold my breath on ever getting based outside Hong Kong if you join now.

- This won't necessarily happen to everyone but a few months after I joined we were asked to go to the 5th floor and sign new contracts. We were told that they had been changed a little bit for tax purposes. On closer inspection though, I noticed the biggest change. The entire "forgiveable loan" was no longer prorated if you chose to leave early. Now, only the "course fee" in Adelaide was prorated, so the rest of the 875K does not come down until you have worked there for 6 years. Of course, in Cathay-land, it's sign or you're fired, so we signed it and decided that we would all stick up for each other should anyone ever question which contract we signed originally, and which one we were coerced into signing.

Anyway, those were some of my reasons for leaving. Like I said, there were others as well and I was fully prepared to pay out the remainder of the contract and get out of there. Once you decide to make that move though, is when the company really shows its true colours. When I resigned from Cathay, I was presented 2 days later with a bill for the amount of money I owed the company from my contract. Problem is, the amount they claimed I owed them was about double what I came up with in my own calculations. The calculation looked like it had been done on Excel by a 9 year old who had never even read the contract. When I asked if I could make a photocopy of the numbers they came up with, I was told that they couldn't do that. So I went through the contract again and came up with the amount that I had to repay and sent them those numbers. I had only spent 4 weeks in Adelaide and not the entire 12-14 for the normal TT course. Of course that didn't stop them from trying to claim the whole amount. After some further wrangling, we came up with a number that was much more fair and in the spirit of the (shi**y) contract I was stupid enough to sign.

Now came the HK tax issue. The company would not give me a tax return before my departure date from Hong Kong. Instead they chose to send me threatening emails claiming I had to pay the full amount owing before I left. Considering my salary in Hong Kong, I simply did not have that kind of money lying around. I had to go home to take out some money that I had invested in order to pay them. In the end, I had to leave Hong Kong quietly without the company or the IRD knowing. I managed to deal with the IRD myself from home but the company was no help.

When I got back to Canada, I sent Cathay half the money I owed them, and told them they would receive the rest once I get a copy of my final paystub with the amount that they withheld, so that I can subtract it from the amount I still owe them. I never received this paystub. Instead, I got a letter from a lawyer in Canada. This letter claimed that I still owed them the rest of the money, with no mention of the amount from my last paycheque that I never got paid. Of course, in true cathay fashion, the letter came with the usual threats and intimidation.

In the end, I decided that Cathay has much more in the way of resources for legal battles, so I borrowed money from a bank and paid them the money owing from the contract to get them off my back. Iím living back in Canada, flying for a regional airline, which funnily enough provides me with a much better lifestyle than Cathay did. I regret my decision to go to HK, but donít regret my decision to leave for one second. Living in the polluted cesspool that is Hong Kong is not worth any amount of money in the world, and it definitely isnít worth what theyíre paying right now. In addition, working for a faceless corporation that threatens employees who have the audacity to leave is just not worth the loss of freedom. Unfortunately, the only measure of revenge I can take against the company is to post this on PPRuNe and discourage anyone I know from ever going there.

Personally, I was lucky enough to have a way out, but this may not be an option for everyone who goes. I'm not saying you shouldn't go but, if you do, you have been warned. Good luck to all
whatwhat is offline  
Old 11th Sep 2012, 13:06
  #2 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Sydney
Posts: 49
Great post mate, thanks for sharing your experience..

It's a shame that you had such a bad experience with CX, I will be actually joining them very soon as one of the Cadet Pilots. I have practically zero flight experience so their deal of training me from nothing is pretty good.

I understand CX shafted you with your contract, but majority of the problems you mentioned (real estate, pollution) already existed before you joined! Didn't you know before you signed the dotted line?
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Old 11th Sep 2012, 23:08
  #3 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Global
Age: 50
Posts: 62
Sorry your experience was bad mate. Guess different strokes for different folks. You just gotta come out to HK to experience all of it for a week or two and do the legwork and see where everything is. There has to be reasons why some stay and some leave and expats being paid less from different industries love HK and some with much higher salaries choose to leave.
For a TT guy, it should commensurate with your experience and maturity that nothing is sugar coated. It's great you got that regional job in Canada as well as the lifestyle you yearn for. However most guys who have transited have also had great experiences. Save. Money from previous jobs to tide through their initial outlays and was aware upfront what they were going into. Like most places in the world, either you like HK or you don't and no one will force you to join the company and it's your own signature on the dotted line. But for all it's worth, lots I guys are having a great time once they get past lamenting about how good the yesteryears were. In 5-10 years A scale would be almost extinct. It is definitely not a perfect company.there were guys saying how good the ME is and all that. What does the sandpit have to offer now? Holding pools? Same as BA. Qantas in the pacific? SQ? With just as many low hours FOs
Instead of SOs. Furlough pilots. Sacks expats of Jet airways and highly paid but overworked and zero labour protections and poorly written policies or china based contract work? So it's probably the lesser of 2 evils.
boxerpilot is offline  
Old 11th Sep 2012, 23:25
  #4 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: North Pole
Age: 91
Posts: 110

Good well balanced posts guys, you put some of the long time CX guys behaviour to shame.
MrClaus is offline  
Old 12th Sep 2012, 01:22
  #5 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
I understand CX shafted you with your contract, but majority of the problems you mentioned (real estate, pollution) already existed before you joined! Didn't you know before you signed the dotted line?
Have you signed the dotted line yet??
Old 12th Sep 2012, 02:24
  #6 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Sydney
Posts: 49

Not yet, will sign in the next month or two..
lucky86 is offline  
Old 12th Sep 2012, 06:30
  #7 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Global
Age: 50
Posts: 62
The senior guys are laying out the hard facts and venting frustration with a company that has pretty much followed suit with many other companies. Everything is P&L now. Prudence spending etc. Everything highlighted has truth in it. Like everything else it has to be put in perspective. I do not particularly bother with how the facts are presented or delivered and do not see it as a personal attack against me or RH generation it tends to feel have changed. Zero hours. Shiny jet syndrome... Privileged and spoilt. Guess for those of us growing up without Internet,Obie phones and tech savvy gadgets..upbringing is different the whole world round.
HK is not ideal. Cathay is not ideal. But make your best judgement to see who will screw you over less if that's how you view the industry. Otherwise... enjoy the ride, take advice and process it. Resistance and escapism does not make hard facts that comes into your bank account on the 26th of every month go away. Either be happy to receive it or give it back and move on.
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Old 12th Sep 2012, 08:10
  #8 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Canada
Age: 38
Posts: 431
Good Thread...reminds me of my situation in 2009. I was selected but decided to leave while doing flight grading in Adelaide. Everybody thought I was crazy.

Today I am flying a King Air 200 in Africa, doing some very interesting flying, building time, getting quite some cash, and my company is sending me for a B1900D Type Rating next month. I really didn't want to sit in a jet with just 200h especially as an S/O where you never get to fly the plane.

Good luck to all.
whatwhat check your PMs.
Jumbo744 is offline  
Old 12th Sep 2012, 16:27
  #9 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Europe
Posts: 105

Thx for this outstanding eyeopener. Good for you you found something better in your homecountry.
Stick35 is offline  
Old 12th Sep 2012, 21:45
  #10 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Vietnam
Posts: 1,243
Paid more


Just out of curiosity would I be right in saying that even if you were on the old pay scale with housing allowance you still would have hated it?

Would having a bigger apartment and enough money to drink in trendy bars have fixed the problem?
pilotchute is offline  
Old 13th Sep 2012, 02:49
  #11 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: with the other ex-CX pond scum (a zoologist was once head of Flight Ops)
Posts: 1,792
In my case Mr 'chute, no. But there was the A Scale salary (long not available to new joiners) and adequate housing allowance (now not available to new joiners). I am now on a base (not available to new joiners or in fact Hong Kong crew at present), and am enjoying the fruits of doing the hard yards in Hong Kong. I thoroughly detested living there, but worked hard and stuck it out; the package made it worth while.

I could also have left any time I liked as I had a full rating (now not available to new joiners), no 'forgiveable loan' (definitely available for new joiners), and command came relatively quickly (now off the clock for new joiners).

If you think things might improve if you take a chance and join anyway, my experience with this company has been that of a relentless war on its cockpit crew since 1992. Every man has his price, but the currently offered conditions are an abomination.

Last edited by Captain Dart; 13th Sep 2012 at 03:05.
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Old 13th Sep 2012, 04:05
  #12 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Everywhere
Posts: 3

No, being paid more would not have made me wanted to stay. However, as Captain Dart points out, many things that were an option years ago simply don't exist anymore. If I had the option of sticking it out in HK for a few years with a generous housing allowance, then getting a base, I could have been much more inclined to stick around.

Like I said in my original post, I'm not here to tell people they shouldn't go to cx or that they're crazy for going. I went there myself and learned some lessons the hard way, so I'm not one to talk. Just want to give potential joiners some food for thought.

People do need to understand though that their move to HK is likely to be permanent. The rest of your life. Not just a 3 year adventure. Hong Kong can be a fun city but if you want a living standard anything close to what you're used to at home, you need money. Lots of it. Cx does not provide that anymore. So all you're being provided right now is the opportunity (if you want to call it that) to fly a big jet. That's it. If there's one piece of advice I can give to cadets or anyone with low time, it's that the fun of flying a plane wears off very quickly. At the end of the day you're working to live so you have to ask yourself where you will be in 5 years when being a big time jet pilot is just another job.

BTW the responses on this thread have been very thoughful and mature. Is PPRuNe turning a new leaf???
whatwhat is offline  
Old 13th Sep 2012, 12:30
  #13 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2002
Location: up here, everyone looks like ants!
Posts: 966
Headline in the SCMP today:

"HK$500,000 to reserve place in ESF schools
Non-refundable debenture scheme aimed at funding replacement of run-down campuses could put schools out of reach for many"

That's not school fees, wannabes, that's money to get your brat on a WAITING LIST.
Cpt. Underpants is offline  
Old 13th Sep 2012, 13:26
  #14 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: KMIA
Posts: 73

Great post. Selling your soul to a company is not the answer, but sadly even after reading you comment (and the other warnings), many will jump.

To you and many others is a bad deal. But to others, CX is actually a good deal, it all depends where they are coming from. Airlines know this, it is what globalization is doing to this career and many others.

SJS blinds people. Once they having it, they could only see the positive side of the job, and negatives are ok to them. Just read what some wrote after your post...

MDT06 is offline  
Old 13th Sep 2012, 16:14
  #15 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 17
To all the expats. If you are married and have children and want to put them in the international schools in HK, please be alert. I believe you guys take good care of children, right? You are advised to come to join cx as a captain or senior FO but not SO. I guess your package does not really cover that well. Please start to build a cost saving plan earlier.
I'm a HKer and living in HK almost 30 years.
sugizo20 is offline  
Old 15th Sep 2012, 00:46
  #16 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Global
Age: 50
Posts: 62
One more thing that any potential new joiner would like to consider that has been brought up before is the fact that you have to be prepared to be working in an environment with guys who are in the A and B scales too. If its in your nature to compare or get affected by the difference in lifestyle which is evident from what u can afford in housing to the cars they CAN own while you have to wave the staff octopus card around. Not forgetting wives an girlfriends who will inevitably compare themselves and where their children go to school. It is a fact of life. When airfares go down and everyone can fly... It's a good thing. But at the same time,packages get diluted and flying isn't a premium privilege where only certain passengers could afford and hence great packages from
Yesteryear. With LCCs and the growth of airlines in China as well as once their own airplanes starts flying (that's another thread altogether) the relentless reduction in package in CX to D scale will continue. As long as the package is a little bit better than the competition, there will always be someone willing to join and justify in his or her mind that they can live with that. The C scale definitely isn't something to jump about but like everything else it's rewarded by loyalty. ..albeit a smaller reward and shifting goalposts. It's not loyalty to CX and the company per se. But more to yourself being able to be committed to your job. The people who you work with, to earn the trust and respect. It is not gonna be automatic and easy. For the cadets, you will always be the low hour guy whom now you have to be trusted alone in the cockpit with a cabin crew when RQ needs to go relieve himself. You will be the product of a training system in FTA which is constantly being criticized for standards. Stories that the senior guys have told despite how it's been delivered sometimes are cold hard truths. The one thing that will definitely happen if you come onboard and learn is you will definitely build character. You as an SO is an apprentice. To emulate. Constantly train to improve your standards. Learn and ask and retain. You can also spend that time in the shoebox and attention into being as good as you can be in your knowledge and systems. Cos even if you wanted to. There is not enough money for you to be distracted on boats, cars and wining / dining . The forgiveable loan is designed for the older guys with family to defray certain costs. But like some has shown. It's not enoughif your wife expects the 'brats' to be comparable to similar standards back home or worse still. Against the A and B scalers. Which will make things pretty interesting back home.
boxerpilot is offline  
Old 18th Sep 2012, 11:31
  #17 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: asia
Posts: 948
Sorry, regarding the comment HK is like any city, you like it or you don't ....

Hedley Environmental Index

Not every city is trying to kill you

hongkongfooey is offline  
Old 18th Sep 2012, 13:11
  #18 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Oz
Posts: 234
The most balanced HKG thread in a long time, much of what is written above is factual, unbiased and sensible.

Most importantly, new joiners need to be aware and informed. Honky will suit some, not all.

Good luck to all considering the move, it's a great city, not perfect but rewarding in many respects, personally & professionally.

Australia2 is offline  
Old 11th Oct 2012, 04:23
  #19 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: FL
Posts: 36

I'm so glad I told CX to **** off.
airgent is offline  
Old 11th Oct 2012, 14:20
  #20 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Shower house of Africa
Posts: 273
If Cathay hired foreign nationals for their cadet programme back in 2000 I would have applied and taken almost any crap contract they offered.

If you can't afford to pay for a flying licence and you get in to the CX cadet programme then go for it.....I mean how else would you get to follow your dream of flying ?

It's a feakin expensive career choice if you got to pay for it yourself.....

The guys that moan (including myself) about the CX contract have options elsewhere (which is not a bad thing)......generally if you don't have options you don't complain....CX will never not have enough applicants as the world has an abundance of willing and capable people with little or nothing (and would only be to happy to sign on the dotted line for free pilot training)...especially in Asia.
IMHO this is happening everywhere. The days of legacy carriers paying A/B scale salaries are numbered.
In 12-15 years the cadets of today will be captains.....the question is will they afford the lifestyle of the current A/B scalers ? I think not !

Last edited by Ghost_Rider737; 11th Oct 2012 at 16:03.
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