By DebbieH 06 Mar 2020 7 min read

Staff at Cathay Pacific asked to take unpaid leave following coronavirus threat


Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific has requested staff take three weeks of unpaid leave to combat the impact of coronavirus.

According to the BBC, the company has offered a voluntary special leave scheme to all employees from 1st March to 30th June.

The airline’s traffic figures, published on Monday, showed a sharp decline in passenger numbers and cargo volumes since the outbreak of the virus.

Cathay Pacific has highlighted that preserving cash as a result of the drop in travel demand was ‘key to protecting’ its business. 

In a statement, Cathay said: “In view of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and also significant drop in market demand, we just announced massive capacity cuts yesterday.

“Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business. We have already been taking multiple measures to achieve this.

“Today, we are appealing to all employees to participate in the special leave scheme, which will take effect from 1 March and last until 30 June. All employees will have the option to take three weeks of unpaid leave in this period.”

On Tuesday, Cathay said it intended to cut services by 30% over the next couple of months, as well as cutting about 90% in flights to mainland China. 

Inbound traffic to Hong Kong was down 40% in January compared with last year.

The spread of the virus is just one of many hurdles for the airline. As a result of the Hong Kong anti-government protests the airline was already facing difficulties, and analysts said the airline had been likely to offer the unpaid leave for this, prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the Financial Times, the company said, “financial results for the first half of 2020 will be significantly down on the same period last year”. 

“This was the most challenging Chinese new year period we have experienced,” said Ronald Lam, Cathay’s chief customer and commercial officer. 

“With more governments worldwide having imposed travel restrictions on passengers from mainland China and in some cases Hong Kong, we are seeing continued cancellations of bookings,” he added.