'Cathay crew willing to take year-long unpaid leave' - RTHK
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'Cathay crew willing to take year-long unpaid leave'

2020-09-22 HKT 16:51
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  • Cathay's Flight Attendants Union says many members indicated they would be willing to go on unpaid leave for a year or even longer, if that helps the carrier survive. File image: Shutterstock
    Cathay's Flight Attendants Union says many members indicated they would be willing to go on unpaid leave for a year or even longer, if that helps the carrier survive. File image: Shutterstock
Amber Suen speaks to RTHK's Damon Pang
Flight attendants with Hong Kong’s embattled flag carrier Cathay Pacific said on Tuesday that they are willing to go on unpaid leave for a full year or even longer, if that would allow them to keep their jobs in the longer term.

Cathay has warned that a major restructuring is inevitable as the airline continues to hemorrhage up to two billion dollars per month as passenger and cargo traffic have plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In another clear sign that mass layoffs are imminent, the carrier has also said it won’t be applying for the second round of the government’s coronavirus handouts – which would have required them not to sack staff.

The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union said they were not able to secure any concrete promises over job security during a meeting with the airline’s management team on Monday.

Vice-chairperson Amber Suen said a survey of around half of the union’s 7,000 members last week showed that a majority wanted the firm to introduce a voluntary departure scheme.

But she added that many also signaled a willingness to go on an extended period of unpaid leave for a full year or even longer if necessary – if that’s what it takes to keep Cathay afloat, and preserve their jobs.

“To our members, that means they can still go back to flying when the situation gets better”, she said.

“Once the demand comes back, they only need to go on training to revalidate their licence and then they can go back flying… They don’t have to apply for their job [and] go through the whole interview process again.”

Cathay reported a first-half net loss of HK$9.9 billion last month. Hundreds of cabin crew lost their jobs over the summer after the carrier closed its crew bases in North America.

It received a HK$39-billion government-led bailout in June.