Macau prepares for airline takeoff
By ANDY GILBERT and agencies
MACAU'S airline Air Macau will begin flights in the second half of next year, it was announced yesterday, but is unlikely to cause an exodus of staff from Hong Kong's two main carriers.
The enclave's new flag carrier will initially have four aircraft and a staff of 300, including up to 40 pilots and 100 flight attendants.
It will first service destinations in China, Taiwan and Japan and aim for long-haul flights at a later date.
'Our first routes, during the first two years of operations, will obviously be in Southeast Asia, within a 31/2-hour flight radius of Macau,' said David Young, director general-designate of the airline.
'We hope to start revenue-earning flights as soon as the Macau International Airport is operational, possibly in September next year.' Mr Young, who arrived in Macau last month from Air Fiji, said no decision had been made on which aircraft the airline would acquire.
'We have offers from aircraft suppliers from all over the world,' Mr Young said.
However, he indicated that most flight attendants would be recruited from Macau, and with a pilots' salaries 'exceeding US$100,000 (HK$772,000) per year', pilots are unlikely to want to give up higher paid jobs in Hong Kong.
A senior Cathay captain with 15 years' experience earns about US$250,000 a year on 'A' scale rates and US$150,000 on 'B' scale rates. Up-and-coming Taiwanese airline EVA Air is believed to be offering experienced pilots an annual salary in excess of US$220,000.
'Clearly they will be looking to recruit experienced air crew, of which Cathay is an obvious source,' said John Findlay, chief executive of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers' Association.
'But I can't imagine that many pilots would want to leave an airline of Cathay's reputation for an unknown quantity.' Mr Young said: 'Depending on the type of aircraft, we will initially have a total staff of 300 people, based on four aircraft to be our start-up fleet.
'Our aims are low staff numbers and high quality service. We want to reach a high standard of Asian service equal to Singapore Airlines.' He said cargo services would also be a priority.
Portugal's Secretary of State for Transport, Jorge Antas, is due to attend a signing ceremony launching the airline holding company on Monday.
The airline has been established by a consortium of Chinese, Portuguese and Hong Kong interests.
A total of 51 per cent of the 400 million pataca start-up equity will rest with the mainland owned Companhia de Servicos de Aviacao de Macau. Casino mogul Stanley Ho will take 14 per cent and the Macau Government five per cent.