Cathay Pacific asks staff to take unpaid leave over coronavirus

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Cathay Pacific cabin crew wearing face masks walk out of the international terminal at the San Francisco International Airport in Millbrae, California, US. Photo: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific (0293.HK) has asked staff to take three weeks of unpaid leave as it battles with a slump in travel due to the coronavirus epidemic.

The airline offered a voluntary special leave scheme to all employees on Wednesday.

“Today, we are appealing to all employees to participate in the special leave scheme (SLS), which will take effect from 1 March and last until 30 June. All employees will have the option to take three weeks of unpaid leave in this period,” a spokesperson for Cathay Pacific said.

The airline has also announced “massive capacity cuts” in view of “novel coronavirus outbreak” and significant drop in market demand.

“Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business. We have already been taking multiple measures to achieve this.”

Last week Hong Kong announced it was restricting travel between the autonomous region and mainland China. Around 60 million people in China also remain under lockdown as Beijing tries to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Other travel operators have warned in recent days about the impact of the extraordinary coronavirus measures. Cruise operator Royal Caribbean slashed its earnings guidance on Tuesday, citing the coronavirus outbreak as a factor.

Separately, French plane manufacturer Airbus said on Wednesday it had shut a factory in China that assembles A320 planes and asked all staff in China to work from home.

Airbus's factory in Tianjin, China has been closed in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty

“Airbus is constantly evaluating the situation and monitoring any potential knock-on effects to production and deliveries and will try to mitigate via alternative plans where necessary,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. Shares fell 0.7% in Paris.

READ MORE: Why stock markets are panicking about coronavirus

The coronavirus epidemic, which began spreading in earnest around a week and a half ago, has caused panic in markets and forced businesses across China to put in place emergency measures. Apple, Starbucks, and McDonald’s have all closed shops across the country and Toyota has also closed a factory in China.

READ MORE: How coronavirus outbreak is hitting companies around the world