In addition to asking its staff to sign up for no-pay leave, Cathay Pacific Airways said it needed help from the airport, aircraft manufacturers and other suppliers to cope with the steepest sales drop in its history. Cathay yesterday said its sales fell more than 22 per cent in the first quarter from the same period last year, a larger drop than during the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the Sars epidemic. Its share price declined 3.45 per cent to HK$9.25 yesterday on the news. In 1998, Cathay's sales dropped 13 per cent year on year after the Asian financial crisis slowed air traffic. In the first half in 2003, when Sars battered the industry, sales declined by 21 per cent. Chief executive Tony Tyler said this year that even the no-pay leave scheme would not be enough and that the airline needed to do more to reduce costs. The plan, which involves one to four weeks of unpaid leave, depending on seniority, if fully taken up by the staff, could translate into a 5 per cent saving in payroll costs or about HK$600 million, said Damien Horth, a transport analyst at UBS. 'In the context of a 20 per cent revenue decline for the year, or HK$17 billion in sales reduction, Cathay needs to reduce every cost line and do everything it could to cut cost,' Mr Horth said. Cathay is liaising with the Hong Kong Airport Authority over reducing parking and landing fees and other charges at the airport. It is also asking for rebates and concessions from its suppliers on parts and components. Like other airlines, Cathay is seeking delays in the delivery of some aircraft to preserve cash. It has negotiated with Boeing over delaying two B777-300s to next year and will negotiate further with Airbus and Boeing, Mr Tyler said. Cathay will park two more Boeing 747-400BCFs in the desert in the United States , bringing the number to five, as rates on air cargo decline.