October 24, 2017 / 10:54 AM / a year ago

Pilot recruiter Longreach scraps Hong Kong roadshow, citing "roadblocks"

* Comes amid reports of Cathay pilots mulling moves

* Longreach said was advised to cancel

* Cathay says has no knowledge of development

HONG KONG, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Recruiter Longreach Aviation has been forced to cancel a Hong Kong roadshow that scores of Cathay Pacific pilots had planned to attend, and is seeking legal advice how to get around its “roadblocks”, according to two emails seen by Reuters.

The move comes amid media reports, citing recuitment agencies, that about 200 pilots of Hong Kong’s dominant airline are weighing up job options with mainland Chinese carriers as it embarks on a major cost-cutting drive that has hit benefits.

“At the 11th hour, roadblocks were put in our way and although we have been advised that we are compliant with HK law, we have also been advised it is better to cancel, rather than proceed, until the issues have been resolved,” Longreach China told a Cathay pilot in one of the emails.

“We have received legal advice today and unfortunately we are unable to proceed with the events as planned,” Longreach China said in another email. “We have had no option other than to cancel.”

It was not clear what issues the legal advice was related to, or in what way the roadshow may have been illegal.

The emails to Cathay Pacific pilots could not immediately be verified and Longreach China did not respond to a request for comment. Cathay said it had “no knowledge of such development”.

Cathay has cut 600 jobs as part of a review aimed at cutting HK$4 billion ($512 million) in costs over three years, its biggest headcount reduction in almost two decades, as it seeks to return to profitability in an industry battered by falling ticket prices.

“It’s not only mainland carriers,” said a senior Cathay captain who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the topic.

“Pilots within Cathay are looking right across the spectrum. I know junior pilots have had job offers with Qantas and Air New Zealand and will be returning to those countries in the coming months.”

In recent years, Cathay has seen its market share on international routes eroded by aggressively expanding mainland Chinese and Gulf airlines. This has hurt its competitiveness, coupled with poor fuel hedges and its lack of a budget arm.

In comparison, to ease an acute shortage of pilots, mainland Chinese carriers have been offering lucrative salaries.

China’s flying schools produce just over 1,000 new pilots each year, far fewer than the 110,000 pilots U.S. planemaker Boeing predicts the country will need by 2035.

For example, a position advertised on Longreach’s website for a Boeing-737 captain at Air Changan offers a yearly income of up to $294,000. A comparison for Cathay was not available. (Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree; Additional reporting by Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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