A career that I loved and yet with regrets…

South China Morning Post, an English newspaper in Hong Kong, which was a compulsory reading material while I was in High School. Every now and then, I would see Cathay Pacific Airways’ recruitment advertisement on the front page. The page usually featured a pair of Flight Attendants, a colleague I had known before I joined Cathay for over thirty years, and a pretty young Hong Kong girl. The walk-in recruitment back then was always held at the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel with thousands of applicants. Still, perhaps only twenty of them would be selected as candidates.


In 1987, soon after I finished High School, I submitted my first application to be a Cabin Crew of Cathay. There have been many names for our job as years passed, from Stewardess, hostess, Flight Attendant to Cabin crew. I somehow prefer Steward. I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt to the interview. Can you believe it? I had no idea about the importance of grooming and respect, especially for this job. Needless to say, I didn’t even make it to the second interview. There were four interviews before you were officially hired, plus a medical check-up. It’s challenging to be one of them.

Another year went by, and I busted at my A-Level, after which I thought I might as well start working, whatever related to travel. I got a job at a Travel Agency as a Consultant. My ex-boss was so kind and willing to hire me as I had no experience and knowledge in the industry, let alone basic office skills. I didn’t even know how to send a telex. Grateful to my boss, who was so patient and generous. My pay was about four hundred pounds a month – not bad as a first job in the eighties, right?


One day after work, walking past the Shangri-La Hotel in my office attire, I saw many young guys and girls. Some were dressed up, and some were in shabby clothes walking into the hotel. I was wondering what was happening, so I walked in to find out. It was another walk-in-interview of Cathay, no wonder. Then I thought, since I was already there, I might try my luck again to see whether they would take me this time, after hours of wait, my turn. I still remember she was a middle-aged lady in Chief Purser’s uniform from Hong Kong. After a brief conversation, she asked me to show her my nails and how I walk. It soon ended after that, saying that I would be notified in two weeks, which meant you failed. They usually would give you the date and venue of the following interview if you passed. Oh well, whatever, I headed to a pub nearby to have a pint of booze to chill out without feeling lost as I already had a job that I cherished though the nature was not quite the same.

Stockholm airport, 1995 Winter.


In 1990, after seriously considering whether to buy a flat in Hong Kong or study abroad with my little bit of savings, I chose Sydney, Australia, for further studies. It wasn’t the best decision I had made in my life but not one I would regret. I experienced a lot, so much that one would never be able to stay in his home town working his ass off to pay his mortgage. In 1995, not long after I returned from Sydney, I returned to my ex-boss and started working for her again. She was such a wonderful boss giving me so many opportunities. However, that full-page advertisement of Cathay still appealed to me. I was almost twenty-seven, reaching the job’s age limit, so I decided to give it one last try. This time in my Hugo Boss suit with Hermes’s tie and pocket-handkerchief. A gracious slender Korean lady interviewed me. Our conversation was very brief. Not a good sign, I supposed, but out of my surprise, she gave me a piece of paper stating the time and date of the interview at Cathay Pacific’s building at the airport. Walking out of the hotel, I wondered why it went so smooth. Apparently, all about grooming and deportment. They were very strict on all these little details back then, unlike nowadays; as long as you could reach the overhead locker to close them, you would be hired. I was thrilled to finally get the job I always wanted and started my new life at thirty thousand feet and all over the world.

Senior Purser getting ready for boarding at L2 door, Singapore 2019

Published by Des Syun

Physically challenged with relentless chronic pain, but it doesn't define me.

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