Cathay union slams offshore staff plan
Phila Siu and Stuart Lau
Cathay Pacific Airway's plan to let non-Hong Kong based crew fly extra routes might be part of a "hidden agenda" to gradually replace Hong Kong-based flight attendants with their cheaper overseas colleagues, a local cabin crew union warned.
The worry stems from a trial scheme - to be launched in January - that will allow flight attendants from external bases fly on routes other than those to and from their bases and Hong Kong.
A Cathay spokeswoman said the trial would allow crew to get experience on other routes. For example, Singapore- and Bangkok-based crew would fly a limited number of San Francisco-based crews' flights, and vice versa.
"The trial is intended for one to three months. Ideally, crew at the three bases will try the other routes at least once."
The spokeswoman said the trial was in response to years of requests from crew to be able to fly elsewhere. In 2010, Cathay proposed the same thing for Bangkok crew - but that was soon scrapped amid strong opposition from local staff.
The spokeswoman said the trial "does not affect our Hong Kong-based crew in any way, including their flying, pay, allowances or promotions ... This is not a cost-saving initiative".
But she stopped short of saying whether the airline could in fact lower costs as a result.
Cathay Pacific reported a HK$935 million loss in the first half of this year.
Staff, on the other hand, questioned the airline's intention.
Dora Lai, chairwoman of the Cathay Pacific flight attendant's union, said: "The airline said the overseas crew want to fly more routes but we fear there is a hidden agenda." The airline may gradually replace local crew with cheaper overseas attendants.