Cathay Pacific is asking its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave in the coming months, the latest in a series of emergency measures forced on the embattled Hong Kong carrier by the coronavirus outbreak in China.
The airline said in a statement Wednesday that it was appealing to all workers to take three weeks unpaid leave between March 1 and the end of June, citing a “significant” drop in demand for flights caused by the virus.
“Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business,” said the airline, which took similar measures during the global financial crisis and the 2003 outbreak of SARS.
Cathay Pacific (CPCAY), which also owns budget carrier Cathay Dragon, announced Tuesday that it was slashing flights to mainland China by 90% and making significant reductions elsewhere in its network over the next two months. Taken together, the total number of flights will be reduced by 30%.
The flagship airline has already endured months of turmoil caused by mass protests in Hong Kong. Demonstrations at the city’s airport last year forced Cathay Pacific to cancel hundreds of flights, and its CEO resigned after the carrier was caught up in a political firestorm over the participation of employees in the pro-democracy movement.
Demand for flights to Hong Kong remains weak, the company warned earlier this month, saying the number of inbound passengers to the city had been cut in half in December compared to a year earlier. In a statement, the company acknowledged that 2019 had been an “incredibly challenging” year.
Shares in Cathay Pacific rallied on Wednesday, but the stock has dropped by nearly 12% so far in 2020. Shares have lost more than a quarter of their value since hitting a recent high in April 2019.
Global airlines have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, and many carriers have suspended flights to mainland China.
British Airways (ICAGY), Air Asia, Delta (DAL), United (UAL), American (AAL), Air India, Lufthansa (DLAKF) and Finnair are among the airlines that have slashed the number of flights to China or have stopped flying to the country entirely.