Dhaka: The national carrier of Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Airways plans to cut around 90 per cent of its flights to mainland China over concerns of the coronavirus spread, announced Augustus Tang, CEO of the airline on February 4.
By cutting the flights to China, Cathay will be suspending 30 per cent of its total capacity of flights over the next two months.
Hong Kong reported its first death from the newly identified coronavirus on February 4, the second outside mainland China from an outbreak that has killed more than 420 people, spread around the world and raised fears for global economic growth.
The financial centre last week ordered its airlines to cut capacity to mainland China by at least 50 per cent due to the epidemic and its government has faced pressure from citizens to take further measures to close its borders as case numbers rise.
The CEO of Cathay on February 4 told staff the airline would keep monitoring the situation and adjust capacity again if needed.
“These cuts are temporary for now and driven by the commercial and operational realities at the current time, as well as the projections in short-term demand,” he said.
Cathay had already experienced a sharp fall in demand since the middle of last year due to widespread, sometimes violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong. In November it announced plans to cut capacity by 1.4 per cent in 2020.
Cathay sends 27,000 staff to unpaid leave for three weeks
Through a video message posted online on February 4, Augustus Tang, CEO of Cathay Pacific asked the airline’s 27,000 employees to go on three weeks of unpaid leave, as the airline faces a crisis following the coronavirus outbreak.
The request lays bare desperate times at Cathay, which was hammered last year by months of political chaos and protests in Hong Kong and has now been hurt further by the fallout from the virus outbreak.
In the video message to employees, Tang warned Cathay was experiencing "one of the most difficult Chinese New Year holidays we have ever had" because of the virus.
"And we don't know how long it will last," he added. "With such an uncertain outlook, preserving our cash is now the key to protecting our business."
He announced a series of measures to tackle the crisis, including asking staff to voluntarily take unpaid leave.
"I realise this is difficult to hear. And we may need to take further steps ahead. But by supporting the special leave scheme, you will be helping at our time of need," he told staff.