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Aussie Cathay pilots face axe as Hong Kong rejects their visas

written by Isabella Richards | September 28, 2021

A file image of a Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER. (Rob Finlayson)
A file image of a Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER. (Rob Finlayson)

Australia-based pilots working for Cathay Pacific whose roles were marked for redundancy unless they relocated to Hong Kong have been seeing their immigration applications rejected.

It comes only months after the carrier closed its pilot base in Australia, leading to 120 roles being under threat unless employees made the move.

“We have been informed by the Immigration Department that the work permit applications from overseas-based pilots who have applied to relocate to Hong Kong have been rejected,” the airline told the South China Morning Post.

“We are reaching out to support these officers, many of whom will have the opportunity to elect an enhanced termination benefit.”

The announcement came only months after the company also shut its Canadian pilot base, which followed the closing of its regional offshoot Cathay Dragon and overseas cabin crew bases, cutting 5,900 jobs since the start of the pandemic.

Immigration data noted for the first eight months of the year, there were almost 500 visa applications recorded from non-local pilots, and 73 were seeking a first-time work permit. However, all 500 applications were ultimately rejected.

It is not clear how many pilots attempted to relocate from Australia, but the SCMP said these figures also included workers from Canada, Germany and New Zealand.


“Sadly, this represents yet another blow to those who have staked their career on Cathay Pacific Airways,” said Alex Jackson, chairman of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association.

“This decision was one made by the Hong Kong government, the options for a better resolution were limited and outside our control, especially in the current climate.”

Cathay Pacific has now axed numerous pilot bases across the globe in a bid to curb costs during the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

Adding to the slew of shuttered pilot bases, earlier this month the airline confirmed its London hub would close after the majority of pilots have had no flying duties since April 2020.

Cathay is also considering closing down its bases in the US, but will review the decision later this year.

Despite major concerns over rejected visas, the SCMP quoted an unnamed spokesperson who claimed local pilots have been jobless for months after being promised employment.

“It is good to see that immigration is recognising this, and denying new work visas as per their own policy, and we still hope that they extend this to visa renewals to expedite the re-employment of local pilots,” they said.

Australian Aviation has contacted Cathay Pacific for comment but the airline is yet to respond.

Comments (3)

  • chris


    How predictably true to form is the wretched CCP with this sham? They pissed in our collective pockets (and I’m being polite here) by claiming there was no connection between jailing the two innocent Canadians, following the arrest (on an outstanding warrant) of the Huawei executive in Canada, who then spent 3 years under “house arrest” in a luxurious Vancouver mansion. Their delusion that lying will ultimately see them prevail against democracies will be their nemesis…

  • Pvk


    Goodbye Cathay, you’re destined to become another poor quality Chinese Airline with the likes of China Southern & Eastern. Forgoing your past will destroy your future, here’s to hoping Qantas becomes the airline of choice for Australians to Hong Kong & Asia in the future, flown by quality trained pilots, catering to Australian passengers.

  • Steve


    Cathay Pacific is ASSHO!
    I would not want to be an Australian in Hong Kong right now.
    The risk of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment for political gain is too great.

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