Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways asked its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave, saying preserving cash was key for the carrier and that conditions were as grave as during the 2009 financial crisis due to the virus outbreak.
Cathay is also asking suppliers for price reductions, putting in place hiring freezes, postponing major projects and stopping all non-critical spending, Chief Executive Augustus Tang said in a video message to staff seen by Reuters.
On Tuesday, the carrier said it planned to cut about 30 per cent of capacity over the next two months, including about 90 per cent of flights to mainland China.
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.
The virus, which has led to a death toll of nearly 500, has led to a further drop in visitors and passengers transiting through Hong Kong’s airport.
“This has been one of the most difficult Chinese New Year holidays we have ever had,” Tang said in the video. “We don’t know how long this will last. With such an uncertain outlook preserving our cash is now the key to protecting our business.”