I am currently flying as a Boeing 747-400 First Officer with Cathay Pacific Airways. I am based in Los Angeles with routes consisting of flights from North America to and from Hong Kong. I was hired as a direct entry First Officer on to the -400 for the Freighter operation. I have been with Cathay for close to two years now and absolutely love the company and flying the ‘Queen of the Skies.’
Cathay Pacific is an awesome company that promotes there crew from within. You can join as a Second Officer with relatively little experience and be promoted to a wide body Captain in under ten years. Right now the time to promotion at Cathay is about 8 – 9 years on the passenger fleet and anywhere from 3 – 5 years on the freighter. This is an excellent opportunity for any pilot that aspires to join a long-haul wide body operation.
On the Freighter as a First Officer you work anywhere from twelve to seventeen days a month not counting your leave (and you get six weeks of leave per year). The roster patterns tend to be 5 to 8 days in duration departing from somewhere in North America (Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Vancouver) then on to Anchorage for a 1-2 day layover. From Anchorage you operate to Hong Kong with a three or four man crew with a layover in Hong Kong. The return trip again with three or four pilots goes through Anchorage with a stopover and then onto one of the North American ports. A lot of time is spent in Anchorage which is a great city with a lot of interesting things to keep you occupied no matter what your interests are.
Cathay Pacific is an awesome company to work for. They do have extremely high standards which you are expected to exceed, however the training is more than adequate (about four months for an initial course as a new hire). The company has been profitable on a consistent basis paying profit sharing regularly. The pay on the freighter is good and it is considerably better on the passenger fleet. Cathay Pacific’s management consists of managers from the Swire group and is generally committed to the company for the long haul. This proves to be a good solution for the company ensuring accountability for sustained profitability within the airline. In 2003 with the SARS crisis although Cathay parked a significant portion of their fleet they were still able to maintain their profitability. While other airlines furloughed staff, Cathay Pacific maintained their existing staff structure.
As a new joiner on the Freighter fleet I am committed to serving 3 years after completing initial training on the Freighter. At that time I can take a position on the passenger fleet either in North America or Hong Kong. As I mentioned earlier the pay is considerably better and the roster are improved as well. Some of my colleagues are electing for early commands on the -400 and have applied for and been accepted for Command courses on the freighter. Some individuals have completed their Command after only three years with the company (and these are guys without previous wide body experience). Cathay offers a number of exciting opportunities depending on your aspirations. Many guys have been able to take temporary bases or base swaps spending a period of time in Europe or Australia.
I am really pleased to have a career with Cathay Pacific. The -400 is a great aircraft and my coworkers are all very professional and a lot of fun to work with. Although Cathay has had labor issues in the past, there seems to be a great deal of cooperation between employees and management. Although there are always petty gripes it seems to me that most people are happy to be working for a profitable organization. It is always a fun time to go to work and I certainly never have to worry about whether or not we will be paid each month. Cathay has been a great career so far and I am very excited about the many opportunities ahead for myself with the airline.
As an extension to my article I want to mention that when I was offered an interview, I took the advice of some of my friends working at Cathay to contact Pilot Career Centre. I completed a Cathay Prep for my first interview and then when I learned I had been successful I completed a prep for the second interview and a mock sim eval. This was an expensive investment however it was without a doubt the best money I have spent throughout my entire professional career (outside of the cost of obtaining my licences/ratings). I met up with Dennis and subsequently Greg and not only were they honest and professional, there gouge was 100% on the money. I did not receive a question that I had not covered with these guys. The best part of the prep though was not just having the questions, but it was knowing how to answer them. Thanks guys.
If any of you are interested in joining Cathay Pacific, I strongly urge you to apply as we are now being told that there will be 150 new hires a year for the foreseeable future. It is a great company to work for and an awesome opportunity for anyone that ever aspired to fly the heavy metal. Good luck and we’ll maybe see you on the line one day!
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