Page 1 of 1

Cathay -- Widebody Heaven For Aspiring Pilots?

Posted: Wed Sep 20, 2000 11:29 am
by Guest
A lot of people in this forum tend to say things like "I want to be a 777 Captain for Delta based out of CVG..." or other similar things, predicting exactly what, where, and for whom they will be flying.

I've learned that when you want a job for an airline, you apply with all the carriers, just like any other business, since it's really a guessing game, and that it's very unrealistic (and a great way to set yourself up for disappointment) to put all one's hopes on one employer.

So, sooner or later, when the time comes for me to try my hand at getting into the commercial aviation business, I'll do just what I've been told all along: apply with everybody.

But I will break with my theory to mention something I learned yesterday. I was at work at SFO when a Cathay pilot came and wanted a id90 ticket to YYZ. So I got to talking with him, and he started to tell me how he was Canadian, but decided to go to Cathay because the pay was better and he wanted to fly widebodies right away. He told me how he had been at CX 4 years and was already FO in an A340(!), and that next year he'll get his command in a 747-400. He said, "There are huge opportunities here, in the US. But in addition to United, American, and Delta, look at Cathay. They are starving for pilots and you'd get right into the widebodies."

I didn't ask if pay was on par with U.S. carriers. It would be interesting to find out.

This sounds like a pretty intriguing possibility. I'd like to hear everybody's thoughts on this. Especially those of you that are already flying the line.



RE: Cathay -- Widebody Heaven For Aspiring Pilots?

Posted: Wed Sep 20, 2000 11:47 am
by Guest
Check out Will Fly For Food:

Cathay is one of the carriers mentioned there. I have heard that Cathay will eventually reimburse pretty well, but it takes a long time to get there. I also read that it takes many years to domicile in North America. So, basically you're looking at fairly low pay in a foreign country for years on end.

I also read that Americans aren't really looked at too favorably there, either. Why, I don't know.

Just going off the gouge I read.

RE: Cathay -- Widebody Heaven For Aspiring Pilots?

Posted: Wed Sep 20, 2000 12:55 pm
by Mason
I have heard the same thing from many CX pilots and officers. They seem to think the equipment upgrade is worth whatever less pay they get, because they love flying for Cathay. So what if you can't live in NA? A foriegn country would be cool. I have lived in Hong Kong, Singapore, and New Zealand for periods of about 3 months each, and it would be great to live there on a more perminate basis.

RE: Cathay -- Widebody Heaven For Aspiring Pilots?

Posted: Wed Sep 20, 2000 11:42 pm
by Guest
Here's the gouge I am going by. It's over 2 years old and can be found at

Hope this helps:


Cathay Pacific


I lived in HK for several years in the glory days of CX (1975-1981),
however, I interviewed with them in May of 98, so here is the debrief from
the initial interview in Vancouver, followed by the final interview in HK,
plus some additional info. (My experience at the time was 2000 TT, 1700 ME
turbine, 300 PIC Jet, etc.) There have been a few changes since then,
mainly in upgrade time which is now 4 years from SO to FO, and 7-9 years
from SO to senior FO and then CPT. I was offered a position on the 747-400
but turned it down for a cargo 747-200F job (which went bankrupt), and now
fly for a major US regional. Not to discourage you in any way, but CX is
not a the best place for an American to go to. For one, you will not fly
at all for at least 3 years. You will baby-sit the autopilot in cruise
only. You will live in HK with basing options in the US 5-7 years later,
if at all. Also, if they hire direct-entry FOs, which they will, they will
start ahead of you, screwing up your time to upgrade. On the positive
side, the CX pilots are some of the finest people around, mostly from the
UK and AUS/NZ and some from CAN. Anyway, review the info below and feel
free to inquire again if you still have questions. If you are interviewing
in HK, I can suggest a few excellent places to visit, restaurants,
etc....HK is quite an exotic city and must be seen while there.

4/30/98: First interview in Vancouver. The day I was there, there was 1
other US regional pilot. I happened to glance at the interview schedule
and noticed that over 50% of the 20 or so invites canceled!

Interview consisted of a 30 minute psyche test (very simple) followed by a
30 minute technical test with 30 questions. Questions were the same in the
"How to prepare for your Cathay Interview" book. I was then introduced to
Mr. Paddy Cavanaugh and Capt. Paul Barton. Very nice individuals who made
you feel relaxed.

Standard questions from Paddy:

1. Why CX
2. Tell us about your career to date
3. Where do you do your training
4. Lifestyle changes in HK on their salary
5. What do you do in your spare time
6. How would you adjust to living in HK
7. What aircraft do you fly
8. what are the duties of s/o
9. why do you want to go from Capt. to s/o
10. How much notice do you need for 2nd. interview
11. Who else have you applied to and why
12. If you were accepted by all that you applied to, which one and why CX
13. How do you see the future of CX

Questions from Paul:

1. What engines do we use and why
2. Advantages and specs to the RB211
3. Why are wings swept and how does it affect Mcrit
4. How do winglets work
5. critical engine on prop planes, how and why
6. critical engine on jet a/c (747) and how does crosswind affect it
7. why is aft cg better for cruise and how does it work
8. characteristics of swept-wings, i.e.. slats, etc.
9. what aircraft do we fly

Any questions for us?

That was it! Lasted only 20 minutes. Basically, the tech questions were
mostly aerodynamic related, while the human resource questions were aiming
at moving to HK. You will be in HK for at least 5-7 years before you can
bid a foreign base. (They did not like the question I asked about

6/20/98: Second interview was almost too relaxed. They make it clear in
the beginning that they want you to succeed. It starts with a 1 hour brief
on the company and plans (140 s/os for 1998), job descriptions, a/c., etc.
The rest of the day is open unless you have the sim and second 2 on 1
interview. The second day is your medical and then they have a casual
cocktail party that late afternoon with a second conditions of service
briefing. Once again, very relaxed and very nice people.

Stats were 4 US, 1 Canadian, 3 Australian. The Canadian was called last
Wed. and offered a position on A340 starting Aug. 24. Us "yanks" have not
been called yet. CX does not generally like the US pilots since we can log
the time as SIC and come back to the US and work for the airlines here.
There are only about 25 US pilots at CX. However, since I lived there for
several years and had internal recommendations, I might get the call. The
sim ride is quite entertaining. It takes some time to get used the size of
the 747-400, so most people tend to over control it, but it appeared that
everyone flew the sim the same way....not that great! And they don't
expect you to fly it that well, just as long as you don't crash it or
really screw up!

We all stayed at the 4 star Excelsior Hotel, which is owned by the famous
Mandarin Oriental chain. Top notch facilities and a lot of flight crews.
Its on HK island and close to all the sights. I am not sure whether future
interviews will be at the facilities at CLK or the old airport. If at CLK
you might be staying at their new employee hotel, which will have an
express train from Central HK island over to CLK at 24 mins.

Since the HK$ is pegged to the US$, figure about 7.7 HK per 1 US. As for
salary, starting SO salary was HK$333,640 or about US$43,050, slowly
raising to $65,430 as a junior FO (4+ years to upgrade). Last I heard this
has recently been reduced a little. I believe max pay these days is about
US$150,000 for captain. (This is much lower than US carriers)

A discretionary bonus equiv. to one month's salary is sometimes paid after
1 year of service. Tax in HK is not more than 15% of gross. Benefits are
a low 10% provident fund (IRA) and various other usual plans. Please note
that CX pays for housing on top of your salary, but when you notice how
much it is, it does not get much (about 600 sq. ft). CX will give you a
HK$10,000 "gift" for relocation expenses and a HK$20,000 loan for 20 months
at HK$1000 /month deducted from salary for other expenses. The gift is
paid back after the first loan, so CX gets more $ on interest charges.

Travel benefits: 1st six months, travel is allowed to home base only as
training and for the pilot only. After the first year, unlimited ID90/75
etc. for staff/family and 1 free positive space coach ticket per year.

3 month notice of resignation is required after training, while only 1 week
notice when in training.

CX does not pay for any schooling for expats. International schools are
very expensive in HK, but also very good.

For some additional salary info:

As I said before, in my opinion CX was the best airline in the world in the
glory days. This is when the A scale was the only scale and the highest in
the world with some pilots reporting up to $500,000 US a year. The most
recent A scale salaries which the most senior pilots are paid, and CX is
trying to get rid of it, are at each year (US$):

1. FO $110,621
4. FO $121,084
5. Senior FO $131,547
17. Senior FO $187,351
1. Captain $190,838
17. Captain $269,239

The A scale will probably not be around much longer, but they were the
highest paid pilots in the world. HK does not recognize unions, so CX
pilots don't have much authority. Currently, the figures I posted at the
top for SO is the B scale, but I have heard that these have been reduced
somewhat, and are now the C or D scale. You never know with CX! Also, if
you get a basing in the US (not before 5-7 years) or somewhere else, the
housing allowance is not paid. Bottom line, all new pilots must live in HK
for at least 5-7 years. There is no commuting. Also, CX and most foreign
airlines do not have jumpseat privileges.

If offered a position, you will go to the Australian Flying College in
Adelaide for 4 weeks to convert your licenses, followed by a 1-2 weeks back
home before going to HK for 6-8 weeks of training depending on a/c. You do
not get typed on the a/c, but get rated (P2X Rating) on the Duchess. Most
new hires are going into the A340 now. You will stay in the hotel during
this time (either the Excelsior or the CX hotel at CLK). They will provide
your hotel for 6 months and then start your housing allowance of 18k-21k
HK$ / month. Unfortunately you cannot get much for that price (about 600+
sq. ft). During the first 6 months you get staff travel only back to your
home country. After 6 months, you get unlimited staff travel (ID90/75
etc.). You will not be on the seniority list until after 18 months, and
then upgrade to FO is around 3-4 years. The CX pilots on my flight into HK
(I rode in the cockpit from Seoul to HK) bashed the company and told me not
to believe anything they said! (I flew Delta to Seoul in business class).
However, CX coach service is excellent with headrests, footrests, and video
screens at every seat and unmatched in-flight service that US airlines
should look into!

That's about it for the CX interviews. From a US pilot's point of view, it
is better than the US regionals as far as pay, and the equipment is first
class. The only downside is the living arrangements, constant salary
decreases and cutbacks, upgrade times to a flying seat, and an untrusting
management. If you ultimate goal is to work for a US major, than I would
suggest staying here and continue what you are doing, or go the regional or
corp. route. One other note, as a SO you will have a lot of free time to
hang out in HK, since you will rack up your long haul hours in a few days.
As far as living in HK, it is not like it used to be when lots of Americans
and other expats lived there. It is incredibly expensive, crowded, and
rainy. It is not fun for a single American to live there. On the other
hand, it is a great jumping off point to visit that part of the world.

Another note: There is a company that CX has setup to run their cargo
operations called ASL (Aircrew Services LTD). They hire pilots separately
from CX, so CX pilots believe they are scabs and will treat them like that,
since they go in as a FO, not a SO. Their pay scales are attractive, as
pilots are based in their home country and average about 60 hours a month
on the 747-400. US pilots can expect pay at $48k, $53,400, $69,000,
$125,000 as FO in years 1,2,5,10, with captain pay about 45% higher. ASL
mins. are at least 3000 TT for FO, while CX is around 1000 TT for SO.

Copyright© 1999 WillFly. All Rights Reserved.

RE: Cathay -- Widebody Heaven For Aspiring Pilots?

Posted: Thu Sep 21, 2000 3:40 am
by Guest

Awesome. Thanks a lot. I had a feeling it had to be too good to be true.

Being an American in Hong Kong isn't the best thing in the world to be after the handover. And I think I'd rather work my way up the scale at a US major, where I know that I've got a union to make sure I'm properly compensated and treated.

Thanks a lot.


RE: Cathay -- Widebody Heaven For Aspiring Pilots?

Posted: Sat Sep 30, 2000 2:00 pm
by CX Flyboy
There are many unhappy pilots here at CX. Many have had their salaries cut and many are just unhappy with the way management treat us. Sure, they are not wonderful, but there are few companies around where things are all nice and happy, but this isn't one of them

AirCanadaSFO, I think the guy you were taking to about being a captain within 5 years of joining is pulling your leg. time to command is about 10 years in Cathay, but yes, we only spend about 2 years at the moment as S/O, nutil upgrade to Junior FO. This lasts for about 18 months when you become an SFO. Yes you start flying big widebodies as there are no small aircraft here!

Basings abroad are available as soon as you pass the probation period as a second officer (I.e. 6 months). It depends where is available.

The pay is not as good as many US carriers, but is not bad. Most guys come from low paying jobs, but yes, Hong Kong is an expensive city. having said that, compared to most hong kong people., the pay is not bad at all. Depends what perspective you have.