Chinese airlines are reported luring pilots from financially pressured Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, at the backdrop of a possible reshuffle of alliances.

As the industry is facing a shortage of experienced pilots, recruiters are reportedly going to Hong Kong to hunt for Cathay pilots on behalf of Chinese carriers.

March 2017, Cathay Pacific reported a $74 million profit loss for the financial year of 2016. The loss was attributed to the growth of competition with both the Middle Eastern premium airlines and the low-cost carriers from mainland China, as well as the unpredictable nature of the world economy. This was the first time since 2008 when the company had to admit experiencing financial trouble.

To deal with the financial losses, in 2017 the company announced the beginning of a three-year restructuring program that aims to cut costs by half a billion dollars in three years. As part of it, in May 2017, the carrier announced laying off 600 employees – the biggest job cut in its history. Although these job cuts do not affect pilots and flight attendants directly, further expense-cuts do affect housing allowances, which might stir up dissatisfaction.

Keeping pilots is not the only problem Cathay Pacific might have, as rival China Southern is rumored of entering the Oneworld alliance, of which Cathay is a part of. The rumor is incited by its recent codeshare partnership agreement with Oneworld alliance member American Airlines and the China Southern President’s vague description of the current alliance membership as “a sensitive topic”. If this scenario goes through, some analysts, like South China Morning Post’s Danny Lee, question whether the two airlines, with similar routes, closely located home-bases (Hong Kong and China Southern’s hub Guangzhou are approximately 120 km apart) and ultimately the same market of long-haul flights, could remain in the same alliance.