Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific to drop 'Dragon' brand, eliminate more than 8,000 jobs worldwide

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  • Nearly all staff on the low-cost brand will be made redundant, including pilots and cabin crew
  • The airline received a HK$39 billion bailout in June, with HK$27.3 billion from the government to keep it afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic
South China Morning Post |
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Cathay Pacific Airways employees leave the company’s headquarters on Wednesday. Photo: SCMP/ Felix Wong

Nearly all Cathay Dragon staff will be made redundant under the job cuts announced by its parent company Cathay Pacific Airways on Wednesday, as chairman Patrick Healy apologised for the “great distress and anxiety” the move had caused.

Around 2,500 cabin crew and pilots working under the Dragon brand were expected to be made redundant, the airline said, adding that across the group 4,000 cabin crew, 600 pilots, and 700 ground staff and head office positions would be cut.

Earlier, Cathay announced it would eliminate 8,500 job posts globally in a HK$2.2 billion restructuring, and close Cathay Dragon with immediate effect. The move would see 5,900 staff made redundant, with 5,300 of those based in Hong Kong.

Healy said the airline group had done everything it could to avoid the cuts, but they had to be made to “secure the survival of this incredible 74-year-old company”.

“The decisions we have announced today will cause great distress and anxiety for a large number of our people and their families,” Healy said. “For this we are truly sorry.

“We have thought long and hard over recent months, we have examined diligently all possible ways forward, and we have come to the conclusion, reluctantly, that today’s decisions must be made to … secure the survival of this incredible 74-year-old company.”

Covid-19 has taken a heavy toll on Hong Kong's mental health

Healy said Cathay Dragon was being sacrificed so the company could focus on creating a “world-leading travel brand in Cathay Pacific”, and a single “low-cost leisure brand in HK Express”.

The chairman called the decision to part ways with “such a large number of our outstanding colleagues heart wrenching…and nothing would give us greater pleasure than to be able to hire back the people we are losing today when we return to growth in the future”.

Cathay Pacific secured a HK$39 billion bailout in June, with a HK$27.3 billion injection from the Hong Kong government preventing its collapse amid the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Healy said the future remained highly uncertain, and called the crisis “deeper, and the road to recovery slower than anyone thought possible just a few short months ago”.

Hong Kong to relax some of its social distancing rules 

Amber Suen, internal vice-chairwoman of the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union, said she was “completed disappointed with this decision”.

“We have talked to the company on the reason why they haven’t implemented any voluntary unpaid scheme before they made the decision, but then the company said they simply are not able to do so,” she said.

Union chairwoman Zuki Wong said the group had not called for any industrial action and was focused on helping colleagues come to terms with the news.

Staff morale has been low for quite some time now, so now the situation is pretty bad,” she said.

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