Any move by Cathay Pacific Airways to cut aircrew salaries would almost certainly be contested fiercely by the carrier's pilots, according to analysts. Cathay spokesman Quince Chong, however, yesterday denied rumours the carrier had asked aircrew staff to take a 20 per cent pay reduction. Ms Chong said annual salary negotiations with aircrew staff for the 12 months from last July were continuing and a salary cut was just one option the airline was considering. 'I do not rule out the possibility that we would suggest they take pay cuts at some stage of the negotiations,' she said. 'But we have not yet discussed with them specific numbers,' she said. She said it would take a number of months to complete the negotiations. The airline employs 1,296 captains, first and second officers, and flight engineers. Representatives of the aircrew union, the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, were unavailable for comment last night. Analysts said trying to enforce aircrew pay cuts could be financially disastrous for Cathay, because the region's economic turmoil had already battered its bottom line. The pilots had exceptionally strong bargaining power because of their small professional fraternity, an analyst said. 'If you get the pilots mad and they decided to go on strike, there's nothing you could do,' he said. 'You couldn't easily hire replacements. 'Just look at the headache the Air France pilots caused before the World Cup,' he said. Another analyst said Cathay had been trying to lower its aircrew salaries for a long time. 'It would be a difficult objective to achieve,' he warned. Cathay's captains are believed to be among the highest paid in the world, with top annual salaries in the $5 million range. Ms Chong said Cathay was also looking into options to contain its operating costs. The airline reported a loss of $175 million in the first half of this year. 'But we have no plans at the moment to lay off any more staff or increase the number of redundancies,' she said. Cathay has laid off 870 staff, and the carrier has stated that it intended to shed another 1,000 employees by the end of this year.