Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 taxing at Toulouse Airport (TLS). Photo: Clement Alloing.

MIAMI– Cathay Pacific (CX) closes its three US cabin crew bases located in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles due to low passenger demand, laying off 286 workers.

Adding to CX’s woes, a Boeing 777 and an Airbus A350 from the airline crashed on the ground yesterday in a storage taxiway at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), suffering tailplane damage.

Cease of operations in the US

Following its cabin crew base closure in Vancouver and laying off of 147 employees, Canada, CX announced today in an internal memo that it was “no longer viable” to maintain open New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles bases.

The decision will leave 286 flight attendants laid off but comes after the most thorough of considerations of several options as the crisis continues to deepen, according to CX General Manager for in-flight service, Jeanette Mao.

The company is communicating with the affected workers and their unions, but CX COO, Ronald Lam Siu-por said that a recovery timeline was still impossible to predict amid the current challenging business environment. Mao added that it might be no longer viable to sustain the US bases.

On its part, the President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), Sara Nelson said that they are working to support the affected crew and achieve health care conditions for as long as possible.

This closure also implies for CX just two flights a week to the US. As of now, CX will only fly to major destinations of its network during April and May, which represents 3% of its normal capacity. The destinations include Beijing, Los Angeles, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Vancouver.

Last year, CX workers ratified their first three-year contract with the company, which included pay increases, back pay, schedule flexibility and retirement security for flight attendants, according to South China Morning Post.

However, CX’s March reports showed a 90% drop in passenger volumes, that is to say, only 311,000 travelers, which influenced the base closures. Additionally, the Hong Kong-based carrier said it expected more flight cuts during the next months to carry less than 1% of its normal capacity.

Incident at Hong Kong hub

Apart from the base closures, a day ago CX suffered an aircraft collision that occurred at HKG where the company currently stores its fleet due to cuts of almost all of its capacity amid the COVID-19.

Once the A350 had just arrived at the airport, it collided with a Boeing 777 at Taxiway J at noon, according to HKG Ground Controller. While the Boeing aircraft was damaged on its tailplane, the Airbus aircraft came out worst from the crash as it suffered cracks on its starboard (right) winglet.

By now, the airline is exploring all options to ensure that the group rides out the COVID-19 current storm, and is able to compete vigorously and in turn help Hong Kong recover, added Lam Siu-por. Regarding the collision at HKG, CX will contact service providers to fix both aircraft.