Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific has requested its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave between March 1 and the end of June.
According to a statement released on February 5, it appealed to all of its employees – from frontline employees to managers – to take the unpaid time off due to a “significant” lack of flights caused by the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The airline said that its top priority is to preserve cash, which is a method it had adopted during the global financial crisis. “Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business,” the airline’s spokesperson said in a statement.
Global flight cuts
Cathay Pacific has announced that 90% of its flights to mainland China will be cut and also aims to cut 30% of its global capacity over the short term.
The airline will reduce other services in its network over the next two months. “We will monitor the situation closely and adjust accordingly,” Cathay Chief Executive Augustus Tang said in a memo to staff.
Virgin Australia has also announced the suspension of its flights to Hong Kong, citing low demand as the main reason. American Airlines and United Airlines are said to be following suit. It has also been reported that over 30 global airlines have halted flights to and from mainland China.
Turmoil first caused by mass protests
Cathay Pacific had already seen months of turmoil – including the resignation of its CEO after employees of the Hong Kong airline were found involved in pro-democracy protests. In August 2019, Rupert Hogg stepped down as the carrier’s chief executive, followed by the resignation of the airline’s chief commercial officer, Paul Loo.
“This is a grave and critical time for our airlines. There is no doubt that our reputation and brand are under immense pressure and this pressure has been building for some weeks, particularly in the all-important market of mainland China,” Hogg wrote in a memo to staff after announcing his decision.
Hong Kong has confirmed 21 cases of coronavirus as of February 6. It has reported its first coronavirus death when a 39-year-old man with underlying health issues, who had contracted the virus on a visit to Wuhan, succumbed to the disease on February 4.
There have been cases reported in the following countries:
- South Korea
- Hong Kong
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States