Cathay Pacific asks workforce to take unpaid leave amid coronavirus fallout

Hong Kong’s flagship in a ‘grave situation’ after it is dealt another blow on the back of protests and political turmoil in the country
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Cathay Pacific, Cathay Pacific Group, Coronavirus, Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific’s CEO has asked its workforce, including senior management, to take unpaid leave as the airline grapples with the coronavirus outbreak and the financial impact it is having on the company.

In a video message to the airline’s 27,000 employees, CEO Augustus Tang asked staff to take up to three weeks of unpaid leave between March and June.

Hong Kong’s flag carrier has been struck particularly hard by the outbreak of the virus which comes on the back of months of protests and political turmoil in the country.

Tang said: “I am hoping all of you will participate, from our frontline employees to our senior leaders, and share in our current challenges.”

Chinese New Year is usually one of the busiest times for Cathay Pacific but this year it coincided with the outbreak of a new coronavirus, first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The virus has caused governments to issue travel bans and many international airlines have suspended services to and from China because of a significant drop in demand.

Tang said that 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 "With such an uncertain outlook, preserving our cash is now the key to protecting our business.”

He added: “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.”

As part of Cathay’s efforts to reduce financial strain, Tang asked suppliers to reduce their prices and said the airline would temporarily adjust its capacity, including cutting 30% of flights worldwide and 90% to mainland China.

Cathay last asked staff to take unpaid leave in 2009 following the global financial crash.

Tang said: “The situation now is just as grave.”

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