MIAMI – Cathay Pacific has continued to suffer from the outbreak of COVID-19, known as the Coronavirus, with the airline announcing some cutbacks in the last few days.

The airline has decided to ground half of its fleet, around 120 units, due to the significant negative spike in demand for short-term services.

Because of this, it has canceled around three-quarters of its total weekly services, with only 350 flights to run weekly in March from the original 1,470 weekly.

Photo: Masakatsu Ukon

The Coronavirus crisis is on a much bigger scale compared to the Sars crisis of 2003, in which the airline had to ground only 22 out of its 80 aircraft in the fleet at the time, only canceling 45% of its scheduling.

With the ongoing crisis, this means Cathay has now canceled up to 75% of its total weekly service for March 2020.

On top of this, 25,000 employees in the company have volunteered to take unpaid leave in a way to preserve current costs and ensure the business can remain afloat whilst it undergoes this difficult period.

As this number represents around 75% of the 33,000 strong workforce in the company, not many of the pilots and cabin crew opted for this.

Out of the 3,800 Cathay Pacific and Dragon flight staff, two-thirds opted for the leave.

Augustus Tang Kin-wing, the CEO of Cathay had commented on the ongoing issues, offering thanks to those who volunteered to take the unpaid leave.

“Our business challenges remain acute, but to those of you who have agreed to this Special Leave Scheme, thank you for selflessly making your own contribution in helping us to try and weather this storm,”.

This virus has affected cities such as Hong Kong, receiving nearly 100 cases and close to two deaths.

Photo: Clement Alloing

With the number count expected to rise, not just in the city, but globally as well, it is going to put more pressure on other international carriers to cut costs and also suspend services and slot preferences where appropriate, especially after today’s IATA request to suspend the slot allocation rule.

For example, United Airlines had suspended routes across South Korea, Singapore and Japan after experiencing a 75% drop in the capacity as well as the Lufthansa Group axing around 23 long-haul services too.

If anything, with this virus not showing any signs of declining, the aviation industry will suffer, too; thus, going forward, volatility will continue to be a theme this year as it was in 2019.