The Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific has confirmed plans to shutter three U.S. flight attendant bases in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles with the loss of nearly 300 jobs. The airline told staffers in an internal memo that retaining the outposts was “no longer viable” in the current economic climate and amidst the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.
A total of 286 flight attendants will be impacted by the decision that follows just over a month after the airline announced it would close its Vancouver crew base with the loss of 147 jobs. Last year, Cathay Pacific also shuttered its Toronto base with 120 lost flight attendant jobs. The airline continues to operate foreign crew bases in London, Bangkok and Singapore.
“Cathay Pacific has made the difficult decision to close its US cabin crew bases. There are currently 286 cabin crew based in the United States in 3 cities; New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. We are communicating with our people and the union,” the airline confirmed in a statement on Friday.
An internal memo said the decision had stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic “which has virtually halted global travel”. Cathay’s general manager for in-flight service told staffers that the airline had “considered a number of different options, however, as the crisis continues to deepen after the most thorough of considerations this very difficult decision has been made.”
“A timeline for recovery still remains impossible to predict, with the current challenging business environment, I’m afraid that it is no longer viable to sustain the US bases,” the memo, sighted by SCMP, continued.
Last month, Cathay Pacific witnessed a 90 per cent drop in passenger figures compared to the same month in 2019 and that was despite an uptick in demand as Hong Kong citizens rushed to return home as the Coronavirus gripped Europe and the United States.
On one day last week, just 302 passengers flew across Cathay’s entire route network – 0.32 per cent of the 100,000 passengers, Cathay would normally expect on a typical day at this time of year.
Chief commercial officer, Ronald Lam said the airline had seen no improvement in future bookings and that “a recovery timeline in our customer demand remains impossible to predict”. Lam warned that the airline would be “exploring all options to ensure that the Cathay Pacific Group rides out this current storm”.
U.S.-based flight attendants could be made redundant by as soon as June. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants called the news “devastating” and said her union would be doing everything possible to secure severance pay and continued healthcare benefits.
Over the last four weeks, over 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. Nearly a million U.S. airline jobs have been saved by a multi-billion dollar government bailout but the funds will only secure airline paychecks until the end of September.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.