Cathay Pacific is proposing to close its Australia and New Zealand pilot bases in a move that could put nearly 150 jobs in the region at risk.
The airline said “no decisions have yet been made” and it would follow a consultation process with employees, who have already been stood down since May 2020.
A decision has already been made to shut its Canadian pilot base, and a further call will be made on whether the European and US hubs will follow suit.
Cathay has already closed its regional offshoot Cathay Dragon and closed overseas cabin crew bases resulting in it cutting 5,900 jobs since the start of the pandemic.
Last month it reported a record annual loss of $3.6 billion (HK$21.65 billion).
“Cathay Pacific can confirm a strategic review of pilot bases in Australia and New Zealand has commenced,” said the business in a statement. “We will consult with our employees in good faith and aim to work through the process as quickly as we can. All passenger fleet pilots on overseas bases have been stood down since May 2020.”
Cathay attracted controversy last year after reports emerged the airline gave remaining local pilots just one week to agree and sign new contracts, or risk immediate termination. Some reports said this could result in pilots taking a 60 per cent hit.
Two of Hong Kong’s biggest aviation unions then announced they were to join forces to fight against the move.
HKAOA chairman Captain Tad Hazelton said the unions are “formally making it known” that they are working together.
“Cathay Pacific is forcing our pilots and FAU cabin crew to make a career and life-defining decision in an unreasonably short time frame,” said Captain Hazelton.
“Many of these employees are currently working on Cathay Pacific’s active flight routes and have been away from home for a long period of time.”
FAU chairperson Zuki Wong Sze-Man added, “Thousands of people’s careers have been destroyed after years of loyal service, and many others have now been asked to sign the new contract with permanent pay cuts.
“The company expects passenger traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels in a few years. It is only fair that this new contract be valid for a certain amount of time and not be made permanent.”
It comes after Cathay also announced last month it would retire 34 of its aircraft early, as nearly half of its fleet now sits in long-term storage in Australia and Spain.
In its 2020 full-year financial results, Cathay group chairman Patrick Healy stated that the airline how has 92 of its aircraft – around 46 per cent of its fleet – in long-term storage facilities in Alice Springs, Australia, and Ciudad Real, Spain.
The figure is up from the airline’s previous announcement in September 2020, that it had moved 40 per cent of its fleet into long-term overseas storage for the “foreseeable future”, in order for Cathay “to survive and thrive” in the near term.