Career Advice Recruitment tips

A passion to fly

The intensive training airline recruits must undergo is not for the fainthearted, but the rewards are fantastic

Cathay Pacific's Cadet Pilot Programme was established in 1998 to offer local young people the chance to become airline pilots. It has since become a dream job for many aspiring fliers in Hong Kong. So far, more than 640 people have joined the programme.

"The 55-week training programme is conducted at [training facility] Flight Training Adelaide," said Leo Chan, second officer at Cathay Pacific Airways, during a talk at the Career Forum. "All expenses, including meals, tuition and accommodation, are covered by the airline."

Chan has completed the training and is now licensed to work as a second officer onboard B777 aircrafts. His colleague Gladys Cheung, also a second officer, went through the same training.

"My batch had 12 candidates and we lived together during our training in Adelaide. We quickly became close friends," Cheung said. "Friendship aside, the training was tough and required hard work, as we had to complete 60 written exams."

The career path and salary growth of an officer on the flight deck is very transparent. After graduating, a cadet pilot's first appointment will be to second officer, followed by promotions to junior first officer, first officer, senior first officer, captain and, ultimately, senior captain. So far, over 70 graduates have now become airline captains.

The requirements for entry are straightforward. Candidates need to be over 18 years old and hold a permanent-resident Hong Kong ID card. A knowledge of maths and physics, being physically fit and having a good command of English are also required for an entry ticket into the industry.

"During the 55 weeks in Adelaide, you will have sufficient time to work on your English skills," said Monica Chang, assistant manager of flight crew recruitment at Cathay Pacific Airways. "That shouldn't be a threat, as practice makes perfect. The most important thing is a passion to fly."

Hong Kong Dragon Airlines also sent representatives to the Career Forum to explain the career development of cabin crew - another popular career choice for young jobseekers keen to see the world.

"About 90 per cent of [the company's] 1,800 cabin crew members were recruited in Hong Kong," said Anita Au, cabin crew chief purser and recruitment co-ordinator at Hong Kong Dragon Airlines. "The rest were recruited in neighbouring Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, and the mainland."

The first part of the airline's recruitment process is passing an arm-reach test. Having a second language, other than English and Cantonese, offers a competitive edge.

"We look for candidates who are positive and proactive," Au says. "Once hired, the company will also offer training in soft-skills service etiquette, emotional management, customer-service excellence, and other technical training."

The career path for cabin crew is also laid out very clearly. Ideally, they will progress from flight attendant to flight purser, then to senior purser and chief purser.

"The advantages of working as a cabin crew member include a professional image, good staff welfare, real adventure and international exposure," Au says. "But everything has its downside - cabin crew members need to report on shift duties and it is a physically demanding job."