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Coronavirus: Cathay Pacific asks staff to take unpaid leave

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific wants staff to take three weeks leave to help cope with Coronavirus.

Hong Kong's flagship airline Cathay Pacific has asked staff to take three weeks of unpaid leave to help it cope with the impact of the coronavirus.

The carrier had already been hit by the effect on passenger demand of several months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

It has offered a voluntary special leave scheme to all employees from 1 March to 30 June.

The airline said that preserving cash was "key to protecting" its business.

On Tuesday, Cathay said it intended to cut services by about 30% over the next two months, including a cut of about 90% in flights to mainland China. 

The airline had already been facing difficulties because of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, an international financial and travel hub and a key part of its business.

Analysts said the airline had been likely to offer the unpaid leave scheme to staff because of those issues anyway.

The new coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. The number of cases in China has now exceeded 24,300, with 490 deaths reported.

Other developments

  • European aircraft manufacturer Airbus said it was "observing Chinese government requirements for staff to work from home" and had closed its Tianjin assembly line
  • At least 10 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the Japanese port of Yokohama have tested positive for the virus, but with many still to be tested the number of those infected could rise
  • Sportswear firm Adidas said it was "experiencing a negative impact" on its operations in China and that it had closed a "significant number" of its own stores in the country
  • Danish brewer Carlsberg said there could be a short-term impact in China on the firm as a result of the virus and warned it faced a "more volatile business environment" as the coronavirus outbreak spread
  • Crude oil price falls to its lowest level in 12 months amid declining demand in China

In a statement, Cathay said: "In view of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and also significant drop in market demand, we just announced massive capacity cuts yesterday.

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

"Today, we are appealing to all employees to participate in the special leave scheme, 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."

Cathay chief executive Augustus Tang has sent a video message to employees, according to the Reuters news agency.

In it, he said the airline had also asked its suppliers to cut prices, stopped hiring new staff and postponed some major projects and stopped all non-critical spending.

The new coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. The number of cases in China has now exceeded 24,300, with 490 deaths reported. BBC


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