Hong Kong Airlines fires 400 workers and asks remaining staff to take unpaid leave as coronavirus hits travel firms

Hong Kong Airlines will cut 400 jobs and ask remaining staff to take at least two months of unpaid leave as the

coronavirus outbreak worsens the weakened carrier’s financial crisis.
The bulk of the cuts – which amount to about 10 per cent of its workforce – were set to fall on pilots and cabin crew, in what would be the largest dismissal of aviation staff in Hong Kong since the 2017 restructuring of Cathay Pacific

Confirming the news on Friday, Hong Kong Airlines chairman Hou Wei said the changes were about ensuring its very survival.

Staff have been warned more roles will be slashed as it shrinks operations. The company said it hoped to achieve that through natural turnover, transferring pilots to other airlines and outsourcing “non-critical functions”.

Several airlines have suspended flights to China, where the virus is believed to have originated. The flu-like coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person and has infected more than 31,000 and claimed 636 lives so far on the mainland.

It has spread globally, with 320 cases in 27 countries and regions outside mainland China, according to a Reuters tally of official statements.

Hong Kong Airlines, part owned by cash-strapped Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, said it will reduce its daily operations to 30 from 82 sectors over Feb. 11 to March.

It also said its Hong Kong-based ground staff will be asked to take a minimum of two weeks unpaid leave per month, or switch to working three days a week between Feb. 17 and June 30.

Hong Kong Airlines has also been battling other financial woes. In December, it was forced to draw up plans to raise money as it faced the possibility of a license suspension by the city’s air transport regulator.

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