Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific has asked its 27, 000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave as it struggles to deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
It comes a day after Cathay announced a 90% reduction in flight capacity to mainland China – which has cancelled group tours and told businesspeople to put off foreign travel.
Overall, it is cutting 30% of its global capacity for the next two months.
) Cathay is the latest business to reveal that it is taking a hit from the coronavirus outbreak, with companies including Carlsberg, Airbus and Apple also affected.
The company plan would see staff take turns to take three weeks off, with the scheme running from 1 March to 728 June.
The airline’s chief executive Augustus Tang said in a video message to staff that the situation was as grave as the 2009 financial crisis.
Cathay had already seen a sharp fall in demand since the middle of last year due to major anti-government protests in the territory.
The coronavirus has led to a further drop in visitors.
Mr Tang said: “This has been one of the most difficult Chinese New Year holidays we have ever had.
“We don’t know how long this will last.
” With such an uncertain outlook preserving cash is now the key to protecting our business. “
Cathay used similar “special leave” arrangements during the financial crisis in 2009 and during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003.
Hours after the video was released, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced any visitors from mainland China would need to undergo a compulsory quarantine for 14 days.
Cathay is just one of many global airlines that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak – including British Airways, which has canceled all flights to mainland China for a month, and Virgin Atlantic, which has suspended daily operations to Shanghai for two weeks.
Other big multinational companies operating in the country have been hit too – with Nike and Starbucks each closing half of their stores in China.
Manufacturer Foxconn, which assembles smartphones for Apple in the country, has shut down its factories though aims to gradually restart production from next week.
Disney has said the closure of its resorts in Shanghai and Hong Kong will dent profits, while companies including Carlsberg and Jaguar Land Rover owner Tata Motors say they Will be hit too.
The price of oil has dived to its lowest level for just over a year as the crisis slows global demand – hurting oil companies such as London-listed Royal Dutch Shell and BP.