Cathay Pacific (CX, Hong Kong Int’l) has confirmed it is considering closing its London pilot base as many of its flight crew based there have not flown since April 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19.
“This is simply a proposal at this stage and no decisions have been made,” the airline stressed in a statement shared with ch-aviation.
It said its London-based pilots and their union representatives had been notified of the proposal. “We will now commence a collective consultation with the London-based pilots. We will consult with our employees and their representatives in good faith and give careful consideration to all views provided before making a final decision,” the airline said.
Closure of the London base would put nearly 100 jobs at risk, reported the South China Morning Post. The airline has already closed its pilot bases in Germany, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, affecting 280 jobs, although those eligible to work in Hong Kong had opted to relocate.
The closures form part of the airline’s cost-cutting drive that has seen it scale back its overseas operations, following a record loss of HKD21.6 billion Hong Kong dollars (USD2.8 billion) last year.
Last October, the airline shut down its regional carrier Cathay Dragon (KA, Hong Kong Int’l) amid a restructuring that cut 5,900 jobs, mostly in Hong Kong. Last summer, it was rescued by a government-led bailout to the tune of HKD39 billion (USD5 billion).
The airline has cut its cockpit crew from more than 4,000 to fewer than 3,000 during the pandemic. All overseas passenger fleet pilots have been placed on standby since May 2020, while furloughed Europe- and US-based pilots have been receiving half their pay. The airline recently started rehiring a handful of aircrew, dumped by the closure of Cathay Dragon, in anticipation of a tentative recovery in air traffic.
Before the pandemic, the Hong Kong-London Heathrow route was Cathay’s most lucrative long-haul destination with five daily flights. During the past year, however, the airline has only been able to muster one flight per day at most.