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Talent soars amid expansion
Andrea Zavadszky
update on Friday, October 28, 2011
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Hongkong Airlines and Hongkong Express, two fairly recent additions to the city's aviation industry, are geared for ambitious growth next year. While they are still recruiting for the current year, next year's targets include hiring an additional 700 cabin crew, the delivery of 14 passenger aircraft and opening several long- and short-haul routes.

Since their acquisition by the mainland-based HNA Group in 2006, the two companies have centralised their back-office functions, including human resources and finance. However, their operational staff, including cockpit and cabin crews, are separate. Staff numbers total 1,700 but will grow to over 2,400 while the number of flight attendants will more than double in 2012.

The company is hiring experienced and inexperienced flight attendants from a pool of both high-school and university graduates.

"Our recruitment process is continuous. Most of the new staff will join Hongkong Airlines," says Stanley Kan, director of human resources and administration. "The most important things are a pleasant personality, a nice smile and an attitude that puts travellers at ease. The ability to get on with peers and a passion for the aviation industry as well as cabin crew duties are also crucial."

Languages are an important requirement, and the recruitment process includes an English test and in-flight public announcement, on top of a group interview and final face-to-face panel interview. "We also hire from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China," Kan notes.

Chanel Kam joined Hong Kong Airlines three months ago. Although she had already spent two years with Singapore Airlines, she still had to undergo training.

"This is a new and growing company with vision and a fresh identity," she says.

"I like that we are trained to represent Hong Kong. We are `Miss Hong Kongs' during the flight. We offer warm smiles, local dishes and traditional cookies, all which give travellers a sense of Hong Kong's traditions and culture."

Kam says that training is tough and there is much to remember, such as the name of each dish, and how they ought to be arranged on a tray, not to mention the many different glasses used in business class. There are also make-up classes, wine and cocktail training, and the company recently added wing chun classes as an easy exercise to enable flight attendants to remain healthy.

Most important is the safety training which is conducted in Sanya, where Hainan Airlines - part of HNA Group - has training facilities.

"We practised fire drills, smoke drills, emergency landings, and we had to swim and help people climb onto a life raft," Kam says.

Subsequent to the seven-week training, participants receive one-on-one feedback, as well as regular assessment from section leaders for a further six months.

Kam enjoys the lifestyle that allows her to travel, but also provides the structure and challenges of a working day. But dealing with time zones and homesickness is not always easy, she says. Thankfully, she is currently based in Hong Kong.

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