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Cathay Pacific to close pilot base in Canada, proposes shutting Australia, New Zealand

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd will close its Canadian pilot base and has proposed to also shut its pilot bases in Australia and New Zealand, the airline said on Thursday.

No decisions have been made on the fate of its pilots based in Europe and the United States, the airline said in a statement that noted all passenger fleet pilots on overseas bases had been stood down since May 2020.

The decision to close the Canadian base is final, while Australia and New Zealand is a proposal at this stage and will involve a good-faith consultation process with employees, Cathay said.

In Australia and New Zealand, employers must consult with staff before redundancies as part of union agreements but it is rare for publicly announced decisions to be reversed.

Qantas Airways Ltd and Air New Zealand Ltd made similar announcements last year about consultations before proceeding with their planned staff cuts.

Cathay’s proposed closures were first reported by the South China Morning Post.

Cathay had already closed overseas cabin crew bases and shut its regional airline Cathay Dragon to help it conserve cash during the pandemic, resulting in the loss of more than 5,900 jobs.

The remaining Hong Kong-based pilots and cabin crew had to agree to permanent pay cuts to keep their jobs.

Cathay, which lacks a domestic market at a time when international borders are largely shut, last month reported a record annual loss of HK$21.65 billion ($2.8 billion).

It has been burning through as much as HK$1.9 billion of cash a month, though the carrier said last week that figure would begin to reduce slightly due to an easing of cargo crew quarantine requirements.

Hong Kong bans flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines for 2 weeks

Hong Kong will suspend flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines from April 20 for two weeks after the N501Y mutant COVID-19 strain was detected in the Asian financial hub for the first time, authorities said in a statement late on Sunday.

The three countries would be classified as “extremely high risk” after there had been multiple imported cases carrying the strain into Hong Kong in the past 14 days, the government said.

The city reported 30 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, 29 of which were imported, marking the highest daily toll since March 15. Hong Kong has recorded over 11,600 cases in total and 209 deaths.

Hong Kong authorities have been urging residents to get vaccinated for coronavirus with only around 9% of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents vaccinated so far.

The government last week widened the city’s vaccine scheme to include those aged between 16 to 29 years old for the first time, as they aim to boost lacklustre demand for inoculations amongst residents.

Airlines impacted by Hong Kong’s ban on travellers from India, Pakistan and the Philippines include carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, Vistara and Cebu Pacific.