Cathay Pacific slashes 8,500 jobs and closes regional airline

Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways has announced it will cut 8,500 jobs, or about 24% of its workforce, and shut a regional airline as it grapples with the plunge in air travel due to the pandemic.

About 5,300 employees based in Hong Kong and another 600 elsewhere will likely lose their jobs, while 2,600 unfilled positions will also be cut, Cathay Pacific said in a statement.

The company will also shut down Cathay Dragon, its regional airline unit, with operations ceasing from Wednesday. It will seek regulatory approval for most of the routes to be operated by Cathay Pacific and its budget airlines subsidiary HK Express.

The restructuring is aimed at reducing Cathay Pacific’s cash burn to 500 million Hong Kong dollars (about £50 million) a month, from about 1.5 billion Hong Kong dollars (£149 million) to 2 billion Hong Kong dollars (£199 million) currently, Cathay Pacific CEO Augustus Tang said in a statement.

Heathrow Airport Stock
Heathrow Airport Stock

“The global pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on aviation and the hard truth is we must fundamentally restructure the group to survive,” Mr Tang said.

“We have to do this to protect as many jobs as possible, and meet our responsibilities to the Hong Kong aviation hub and our customers.”

The restructuring plan will cost about 2.2 billion Hong Kong dollars (£219 million), the company said.

Executive pay cuts will also continue throughout 2021 and there will be no pay increments for 2021 nor bonuses for this year for all Hong Kong employees, Cathay Pacific said, adding that ground staff will also be offered a voluntary leave plan in the first half of next year.

In June, Cathay Pacific raised 39 billion Hong Kong dollars (about £3.9 billion) billion) in a recapitalization plan that gave the city’s government a stake of about 6% in the airline.

The announcement of job cuts comes days after the airline was announced as one of the carriers offering pre-departure rapid Covid-19 testing at Heathrow Airport for passengers travelling to Hong Kong.