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CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Hong Kong grants visa extensions to Cathay pilots

(Corrects A330 visa extension to six months from three months in second paragraph)

* Extension duration depends on which plane type flown

* Hong Kong has pilot surplus after Cathay Dragon closed last year

* Cathay has launched local recruitment drive

SYDNEY, June 17 (Reuters) - Cathay Pacific Airways said on Thursday non-local pilots based in Hong Kong had been granted work permit extensions, two weeks after it launched a recruitment drive for local pilots and closed bases in Australia and New Zealand.

Pilots on the Boeing 747 freighter fleet and training captains will receive three-year extensions, those on the Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 fleets will receive a one-year extension and those on the A330 fleet will be granted a six-month extension, the company said in a statement.

Cathay last year closed its regional arm, Cathay Dragon, which had flown A330s and A320s, putting hundreds of local pilots out of work, while pilots on work permits at the main brand remained employed.

Cathay pilots with temporary visas had received shorter than usual renewals since the Cathay Dragon closure, two sources who were not authorised to speak publicly about the matter previously told Reuters.

The airline, which lacks a domestic market at a time when international borders are largely shut, reported a 99.3% fall in April passenger numbers, compared with pre-pandemic levels in April 2019.

It is heavily reliant on its 747 freighters for revenue due to the plunge in passenger demand.

Most airlines only hire locals and permanent residents, but Cathay, like many of the large Middle Eastern carriers, has typically relied heavily on foreign pilots.

In Hong Kong, expatriates can gain permanent residency after seven years and many of its local pilots are citizens of countries like Britain and Australia. However, newer hires would not meet the residency requirement.

Cathay said on Thursday it had resumed recruitment of local pilots for forward planning purposes.

“We fully expect recruitment of overseas talent will be considered favourably when we are in a position to broaden our recruitment plans beyond Hong Kong,” it said in a statement. (Reporting by Jamie Freed Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter)

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