7 expat Hong Kong Air Cargo pilots laid off awaiting HK work visas
SEVEN expatriate pilots at Hong Kong Air Cargo (HKAC) have been laid off while waiting for their visa renewal, reports Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.
HKAC has said it is facing a staff crunch as several of its expat pilots have been kept waiting for their expired work visas to be renewed, or getting only three-month extensions at a time.
The company has urged authorities to settle the city’s long-term visa policy, or risk damaging Hong Kong’s reputation as an aviation hub.
Seven pilots represent 10 per cent of the company’s flight deck and four others may soon be in the same situation. The airline said that by the end of this year, 18 pilots would have expired visas, and without approval, a quarter of flights would be affected.
On Friday afternoon, the Immigration Department informed the airline it would extend the pilots’ visas for three months, a short-term lifeline that will allow them to fly up to mid-August and prevent further flight cancellations for now.
HKAC said it wanted immigration officials to decide quickly whether pilots’ work visas could be renewed for a longer period, warning that its future expansion plans were on hold until the crew visa issue was settled to
Jevey Zhang, HKAC’s chairman and president, said that training new pilots was “rigid and costly” to the tune of “millions of dollars”, and capacity to handle such a large number of trainees was not possible.
The airline’s chief operating officer, Clifford Hung, said with seven pilots unable to fly, the rest were already clocking the maximum number of hours and feeling the strain.
“We are very concerned about this situation. We can still manage by sometimes cancelling a flight or delaying it, but my pilots are reaching their annual and monthly legal limits, and then they can’t fly anymore,” said Mr Hung.