Cathay Pacific and its regional subsidiary Cathay Dragon are to offer unpaid leave to flight crew as its cuts capacity across its route network following a near eight-month wave of pro-democracy protests in its home market of Hong Kong. The decision to take up to a month of unpaid leave will be voluntary and will be extended to both cabin crew and pilots according to the South China Morning Press.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the airline confirmed it was offering unpaid leave to flight crew but this formed part of “existing voluntary ‘lifestyle rosters'” that had been put in place for Cathay Dragon flight crew. “Such rosters are open to application and allow crew to pursue interests of their choice while maintaining a balanced and rewarding lifestyle,” the spokesperson told us.
“We would like to reiterate that there is no compulsory unpaid leave for any employee groups of Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific,” the statement continued.
Offering unpaid leave of between 1-3 months during less busy periods of the year, such as during the winter season, is a common tactic employed by many international airlines to balance the number of required crew. Unpaid leave can prove popular with airline employees, although some airlines prefer to offer seasonal contracts or temporary positions.
While offering unpaid leave to cabin crew is fairly common, the practice is much rarer for pilots owing to a worldwide pilot shortage.
In November, Cathay Pacific chief commercial officer Ronald Lam revealed that the airline planned to cut growth by 1.4 per cent during 2020 – that was a reversal of the carrier’s original plan to increase capacity by as much as 3.1 per cent this year.
“Looking forward, we continue to see a significant shortfall in inbound Hong Kong advance bookings, particularly from mainland China and other regional markets, as compared to the same snapshot last year,” Lam said at the time.
Visitor numbers to Hong Kong have fallen by as much as 40 per cent in recent months. In particular, visitors from mainland China have dropped significantly because of the ongoing protests.
The SCMP reported that a company-wide review of personnel needs is likely to conclude soon. In the meantime, Cathay Pacific has frozen recruitment of cabin crew and other “non-essential” workers.