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A Hong Kong Airlines A350 in Los Angeles. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Hong Kong Airlines Plans to Slash 1,000 Staff

With no end in sight for the pandemic, Hong Kong Airlines is planning to slash one thousand employees, about half of its workforce, and ground its 12 Airbus A320 jets for one year, according to local media.

In addition, according to SCMP, the airline said it had been severely affected by the pandemic and tried to stabilize business twice but failed. Internal restructuring was necessary to help achieve a more effective organization.

“As we work through the new operational and manpower requirements internally, we ask that you remain calm and refrain from speculation until we communicate our plans in coming days,” the airline wrote in a notice.

During the pandemic, the airline rolled out an unpaid leave scheme to its staff. Pilots took two months off after one month on duty, and their salaries were decreased by 60%. Cabin crew faced a similar situation – they were forced to take two months off after working for two months, and their salary will be decreased by 30%.

However, Hong Kong Airlines previously sacked 250 cabin crew members in December 2020. According to local media, the airline has so far slashed 650 employees in total during the pandemic. The government’s pandemic allowance program has revealed that the airline has 2,940 staff.

As a result of ongoing global travel restrictions, Hong Kong Airlines’ passenger volume was 700,000 in 2020, and the airline has handled 7,700 passengers in the first season of 2021.  In response to the weak travel demand, the flight schedule on the Hong Kong – Shanghai route, previously among Hong Kong Airlines’ busiest routes, will be decreased to one frequency a week.

SCMP has also revealed that the airline will focus on cargo services with its eight Airbus A330 aircraft. The cargo services will be the main income source during the pandemic. Earlier, Hong Kong Air Cargo, Hong Kong Airlines’ affiliate, has received the green light for nine new routes, including to Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo and Delhi.

HNA Group, the parent group of the airline, is in bankruptcy administration, making it difficult to give financial support to Hong Kong Airlines. The Chinese conglomerate originally owned two Hong Kong-based airlines, including Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express, the low-cost carrier which was sold to Cathay Pacific in 2019. The debt-laden conglomerate needed to offload its assets to repay its loans.

The global aviation industry has been recovering gradually after the pandemic. However, the Hong Kong-based carrier is facing a different situation. In addition, fellow Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific has described itself as more “vulnerable” than its other global peers, since Hong Kong’s aviation industry is wholly reliant on “cross-border travel.”

In response to the never-ending pandemic, Hong Kong International Airport has announced that its relief package will be extended two months to the end of July.

Will Lee
Will Lee
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