The CEO of the Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific asked his 27,000 employees on Wednesday to take three weeks of unpaid leave in the face of the consequences of the epidemic of the new coronavirus.
“I hope you all participate, from our front line employees (in contact with customers) to our senior managers,” said Augustus Tang in an online video address.
This request highlights the economic difficulties encountered by Cathay, already a victim of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong which heavily affected the frequentation of its routes last year.
The coronavirus, which appeared in December in the city of Wuhan, in central China, spread at the end of January during the Lunar New Year holidays, usually a period of very high traffic for airlines in the region.
Dozens of international companies have already reduced or suspended their links with mainland China, and some even with Hong Kong, in an attempt to slow the transmission of this viral pneumonia.
In his video message to employees, Mr. Tang acknowledged that Cathay had recorded, due to the virus, “the most difficult Chinese New Year holidays in its history.” “And we don't know how long it will last,” he admitted.
“With such an uncertain outlook, saving our cash is now the key to protecting our business,” he said.
“I realize it's hard to hear,” he said of the unpaid leave he is asking his employees to take. “And we may have to take other measures. But by supporting this special leave, you will help us in these times of need,” he said.
He also asked suppliers to lower their prices and said the airline will make short-term capacity adjustments, including confirming the 90% reduction in flights to mainland China.