Cathay Pacific needs to address capacity issues, Hong Kong leader says

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Plans by Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways to slash flights during the busy Lunar New Year period show the airline needs to address its capacity problems, the city’s leader said, while its pilot union called for a government enquiry.

Cathay will cut a dozen flights a day on average until the end of February due to stretched operations, the airline said on Sunday, aiming to avoid cancellations as the Lunar New Year travel season approaches.

John Lee said Hong Kong’s government was “very concerned” about the situation and had already communicated with Cathay’s management to ensure passengers suffer minimal inconveniences.

“Cathay must face up to these problems seriously,” he told a weekly media briefing, adding that Hong Kong needs to rebuild its aviation capacity quickly.

Cathay, which said in November it intended to recruit 5,000 more staff during 2024, drastically cut headcount in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and changed staff contract terms and conditions.

The Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, which represents some of its pilots, said a review needed to be done to examine Cathay’s current problems “which lie in decisions made by management in 2020.”

“These measures have led to cancellations and chronic staff shortages which undermine Hong Kong’s position as a global hub,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Cathay’s passenger business is now staffed by 58% of the pilots it had before the pandemic, the union said last month.

(Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)