Cathay Pacific Closing Toronto Crew Base

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific is unique among airlines in that they have quite a few foreign crew bases (having a couple of foreign bases isn’t unusual, but Cathay Pacific has a lot).

Cathay Pacific foreign crew bases

While many Cathay Pacific pilots and flight attendants are based in Hong Kong, they also have crews based in North America, including in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver.

I don’t know of any other Asian airline that has North American based crews, so that does make them unique.

I’ve flown with crews from all five of their North American bases, and I find that they’re generally a mixed bag. In my experience the Hong Kong based crews are extremely polished and poised, while the North America based crews can be more fun and informal.

Whereas a Hong Kong based flight attendant might say “Mr. Schlappig, would you care for a glass of champagne?” a North America based flight attendant might say “want some champagne, honey?” 😉

Heck, last year I wrote about how I had a Cathay Pacific flight attendant who used to work for US Airways.

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class

Cathay Pacific is closing their Toronto crew base

Cathay Pacific has been undergoing some cost cutting, and that has partly included freezes on hiring as well as some layoffs. The airline has historically had some issues with their North American bases.

For example, in 2016 Cathay Pacific’s 400+ US based flight attendants wanted to unionize, as Cathay Pacific had stopped contributing to social security and medicare for them. Cathay Pacific claimed they did this because they were a non-American employer, while it was also revealed that this would save them about a million dollars annually.

It looks like something even bigger will soon be happening for one of their North American crew bases. As reported by Danny Lee at the South China Morning PostCathay Pacific will be closing their Toronto flight attendant base, which will impact 120 people.

Cathay Pacific says that this base is “not commercially viable,” and in a memo has gone so far as to call it unsustainable. The airline hasn’t yet decided on the next steps, which means we’ll see whether these flight attendants are just laid off, if they’ll be given the option of transferring to other bases (New York, etc.), or what.

The union representing Cathay Pacific’s Canadian workers had the following to say:

CUPE is deeply dismayed by Cathay Pacific’s announcement that the company intends to close its Toronto base, which will cause more than 120 flight attendants to lose their jobs. Apart from our immediate concern for the welfare of these employees, who are hard-working members of CUPE 4088, we are also disappointed that the Employer would open its latest round of bargaining with this Local by announcing the closure of one of its bases.

Last month, Cathay Pacific announced it intends to contract out 100 per cent of its customer service agents at the Vancouver airport as of July 3, affecting another 46 of our members. This latest news—and the lack of consultation surrounding the decision—reflects a disturbing pattern of indifference by the Company toward its loyal employees, and a lack of respect for the unionized workplace.

Bottom line

While we don’t have an exact timeline yet, you can expect that if you’re flying Toronto to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific you’ll soon consistently have Hong Kong crews rather than Toronto crews.

If these flight attendants are laid off that’s of course terrible news, and I wish them the best. I will say that in general I prefer flying with Hong Kong based crews rather than North America based crews, so in that sense I don’t mind Cathay Pacific “centralizing” flight attendants more.

I do find it interesting that Cathay Pacific says they don’t have plans to close any other North American bases, and that it was specifically the Toronto crew that was unsustainable. With how strong the USD is compared to the CAD, you’d think that US based crews would be more expensive than Canadian crews.

If you’ve flown with one of Cathay Pacific’s North America based crews, what was your experience like?

(Tip of the hat to Kevin)

  1. The Cathay Staff I too often find robotic, cold and unfriendly (like the incorrect but accepted stereotype of Germans in Hollywood.
    Was on a new a350 last year and the side of the bed rose suddenly while landing at Hong Kong.
    I now prefer many other carriers before Cathay.

  2. I’m not surprised. Flights from Toronto to Hong Kong are routinely < $800 round trip nonstop and $650 one stop. Air Canada serves other cities in the region nonstop and both Emirates and other Asian carriers serve other cities in the region with one stops. I have no idea how Cathay competes within the space.

  3. Cathay has messed up in Toronto. CX J YYZ-BKK is thousands more than BR J YYZ-BKK. EVA has consistently grown loads and share, while delivering a measurably better pax experience. So now the geniuses at Swire solve the problem by cut cut cutting and unionbashing? You can’t economize your way to prosperity. You can only invest for prosperity.

    No Torontonian who’s tried both prefers CX to Asia, unless they want nonstop to HKG.

    Cathay would do well to invest, not cut, if they want to fix their Toronto problem.

  4. I met a group a Cathay Pacific flight attendants based on out of LA. A group of three of them would regularly go to skid row in Los Angeles with a group of volunteers and hand out sandwiches and water to the homeless in front of the Mission… at night. They were very friendly and compassionate.

  5. @Hosea the only comment you ever make is about other people being horny online. Are you that threatened and repressed that you need to be so judgemental and old-fashioned? Do you not have anything else to contribute to the world of aviation blogs? Do you need a girlfriend or boyfriend?

  6. It’s a great choice for Cathay to close YYZ base since it’s crew members are poorly trained and extremely task neglecting. Flew YYZ-HKG on 829 PEY and HKG-YYZ on 826 PEY and complaint twice. First crew on 829 completely forgot my request for fast noodle as mid flight snack and to check stock of piggy toy. Second crew on 826 forgot to take my preflight towel back under my 3 times of request and I finally managed to give it back in dinner tray. It couldn’t be more horrible.

  7. What purpose do the overseas bases serve for CX? I’d imagine they would predominantly recruit crew fluent in cantonese/mandarin anyway as they would in HK and i’d imagine there would be a lot of cost in having overseas bases. I don’t imagine it’s much more expensive to pay staff based in HKG than YVR or LAX.

    I understand in the case of say JAL. The Japanese have always struggled more with english and their LHR base is generally comprised of crew that are fluent in english and another european language.

    Or BA who have crew bases in places like NRT, PVG, PEK, MEX, DEL, BLR, MAA, BOM, CAI, DOH and fly on specific routes for language/cultural purposes. Although even BA have closed a few overseas bases in the past few years (SIN, HKG, EZE, GRU).

    In terms of the ‘robotic’ crew that fly for CX, it’s hit and miss. A friend of mine who is a pilot for CX told me that (again as I imagine a cost saving exercise) CX stopped recruiting from countries that have amazing reputations for hospitality (Philippines, Thailand etc) as CX was having to stump up an allowance for accommodation and relocation for these foreign crew. So, they just basically recruit local HK crew now – whom I agree are nowhere near as engaging as the older crew especially the ones from outside HK.

  8. Cathay will become the next BA. Cost cuttings will take a toll on the services, planes and catering. Shame because it was such a great airline.

  9. How much does Lucky pay Debit make the comment sections fun? If s/he is not getting paid for his contributions, he absolutely should.

  10. Corsair, please pay attention to all of my comments, not just the ones that catch your eye because the word “horny” is on your screen 🙂

  11. I flew with a Vancouver based crew from JFK to YVR last December in F – they were definitely less polished and more informal.

    I actually talked to the FA and chatted about the union issues – he got pretty tense about it and it’s pretty clear that loyalty to corporate is low. That makes sense also since the culture drifts having a bunch of employees so far and they are way more loosely organized for the NA based crews.

    I think it makes a lot of business sense. Cathay has over-extended, and we’re in a different world today. Cathay has that Pan-Am feel to their brand – and very few airlines are left with it – operating lounges and crewed based on a different continent. Cathay need to evolve to survive right now.

  12. Mike: I know Chinese zodiac toys on Cathay get sold out fast, but the thing is the crew simply didn’t return and tell me if it’s sold out or not. I finally use entertainment system to know it was sold out. This is attitude problem but not the toy okay?

  13. I had a flight in CX F from HKG to New York where I had the entire CX F cabin to myself. The staff was very casual and were based out of HKG. One of the FA said that CX was much more casual than some of the other airlines. I guess that is true, you only really notice if there are not a lot of people in F otherwise they are often too busy to really chat or need to be fairly quiet with other passengers sleeping.

  14. CX service out of YYZ sucks. Totally indifferent crew. Plus they don’t fly F to YYZ.

    When I visit Guangzhou, I usually take EK F YYZ-DXB-CAN instead of CX YYZ-HKG-CAN.

  15. @ Hosea I’ve never seen you post anything other than judgemental childishness. Fyi, I’m always horny for airplanes and cute flight attendants (female, male, whatever you prefer) as I’m sure are many people visiting this blog 😉 You should try it sometime! It’s part of living life, as opposed to living under a rock. If you need some inspiration, check out my blog for some sexy airplane pics 😉

  16. They closed the Toronto base because they are the most expensive base(out of the 5) to keep. Vancouver is the next one to be axed in my opinion because they are expensive to maintain with their high salary pay and other benefits they have because they are unionized as compared to the US ports. Last year CX fired all their ground staff and used a third party to hire cheaper ground staff instead. The reason why the other North American bases are still afloat is because their salary is low and no where close to HK based flight attendants. Do you know how much allowance do HK based crews get when they stay in LA for a 4-5 day pattern? Over $400-500 usd!!! Whereas for NY, LA or SF based crews staying in HK for their layovers only get about $200 USD. Do you see the comparison ? CX is not stupid, they wouldn’t close a foreign base without a particular reason and that usually deals with money.

  17. basically it’s very difficult for CX KA to hire local hk crew, CX tends to hire more taiwanese (due to language issues, taiwanese hospitality and some
    sort of government-related issue), they used to hire malaysian, but since all malaysian routes are now under KA, we shall see if CX wanna hire malaysian for KA.

    YYZ base is just too tiny, and flight schedule for CX on HKG YYZ route is not as comparable as YVR JFK LAX SFO LHR so far.

    I suspect BKK base won’t last long either

  18. If you have issues with the service on Cathay, you have not flown with Air Canada, where getting one of those grannies to get you anything is a task. Toilet was not clean even once during the entire trip from YYZ-ICN or TPE-YYZ, food was served cafeteria style (meaning everything was just thrown on a plate) and don’t ask for anything extra like a pillow, as you will need to justify your needs vs. wants. I have never had such bad experience with any airline on Business class.

    Would NEVER fly Air Canada on a long-haul again. (Don’t have a choice on domestic flights)

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