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'The company does not respect us'

Air China
Dennis Eng

It did not take long for Bobo Chan to decide whether Cathay Pacific Airways' voluntary early retirement scheme for more experienced cabin crew was right for her.

'I don't like it,' the 42-year-old senior purser said. 'This scheme is really only good if you were planning to retire this year anyway.'

Cathay Pacific is offering early retirement to about 1,600 Hong Kong-based cabin crew who joined the airline before December 31, 1991.

Under the scheme, Ms Chan, who has spent half her life with the airline, is entitled to a bonus payment equivalent to 13 months of her $35,000 monthly salary, or $455,000. This is far less attractive than the minimum 17-month incentive that was offered to all cabin crew in 1999 under a similar scheme, she said.

'It needs to be a better package,' she added. 'Right now, the company does not respect us at all. It just wants to kick us out so that it can save some money by bringing in cheaper hourly-wage labour.'

Ms Chan added that her present benefits package far outweighs what the airline is offering her as she can work 13 more years before retiring. Currently, her husband enjoys free medical expenses and extensive travel privileges as long as she remains with the company. Her two children, aged four and 12, also receive the benefits until they reach the age of 23. She said she takes her children to a hospital at least eight to 10 times a month.

New cabin crew recruits can only claim up to $5,500 in outpatient medical expenses per year.

She also works a total of 76 hours per month, serving on a total of seven short-haul and long-haul flights.

However, Ms Chan admitted that an inflight service manager who joined in 1985, the same year as her, would find the scheme attractive.

'She was promoted to an inflight service manager last year but is planning to go soon.'