It’s not very often that you’d hear employees at any company wanting to have their retirement age RAISED but in an industry that has seemed obsessed with youth and beauty, that’s exactly what cabin crew at a number of leading airlines are demanding. And now flight attendants at Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific are one step closer to winning their fight.
At present, Cathay’s cabin crew are forced to retire at just 55-years old – a rule that they’ve wanted to change for years. In fact, Cathay has one of the youngest retirement ages for cabin crew in the region – China Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Philippine Airlines all have a minimum retirement age of 65.
Other carriers, including Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways set their retirement age at 60, while crew at Singapore Airways have to hand in their wings at 62-years old.
Late last year, however, Cathay’s cabin crew overwhelmingly voted to increase their retirement age by five years to 60-years old.
At the time, the chairwoman of the Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants’ Union, Vera Wu Yee-mei who has been leading the call to raise Cathay’s retirement age said it was an essential step to take in order to end discrimination at the airline.
Since then, the union has been locked in negotiations with airline management – suggesting a number of proposals which included barring cabin crew within the ‘extension period’ from applying for promotion. The union has even said it might accept a mere two-year retirement extension in order to win over management.
Only unions members can retire later
But now, as a deal looks close to being struck, the union has suddenly made a surprise announcement – saying that only members of the union should benefit from a older retirement age. The FAU explains that seeing that its members have paid for it to fight and negotiate for the proposal, it would be unfair for non-members to get the benefit.
Many cabin crew are said to agree with the proposal and some have even said anyone who joins the union in the coming months shouldn’t immediately benefit from the change. For now, however, the negotiations continue.
The appropriate retirement age for cabin crew has become a hot topic at a number of airlines who have been grappling with the issue of equality in recent years. Emirates, for example, has come under pressure to change a rule that sees crew members reaching their 50th birthday having their contracts renewed by just one year.
But equality doesn’t seem to come naturally to many airlines – at Cathay, female crew members only recently won their demand to have trousers as a uniform option. The airline is still implementing the plan but female crew should soon have the choice between wearing a skirt or trousers.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.