Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific on Wednesday announced to cut nearly 6,000 jobs to survive the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a regulatory filing today, Cathay Pacific revealed that it is making a historic cut of 8,500 jobs globally, 5,300 alone in Hong Kong, daily South China Morning Post reported.

It has also decided to shut its low-cost Cathay Dragon brand with immediate effect.

The total jobs cuts include 2,600 unfilled posts. It is the biggest job cut by any company in Hong Kong since 1980s.

The move came amid the pandemic while the year-long anti-government protests in Hong Kong had already hit many businesses in the semi-autonomous region in 2019.

In a fresh restructuring of the airlines, Cathay Pacific has earmarked $283.9 million while its Hong Kong staff has been asked to sign new low-cost contracts.

Cathay Pacific in its stock exchange filing said Cathay Dragon would “cease its operations with effect from today.”

The airline also revealed that of its 35,000 staff, 24% of roles “would be eliminated” reducing its workforce.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a 99% collapse in Cathay Pacific’s daily passenger volume. Most of its planes are grounded in response to border closures and quarantine rules.

Cathay Pacific CEO Augustus Tang Kin-wing told its 35,000 staff: “We have taken every possible action to avoid job losses up to this point … Unfortunately, we will not survive without further measures.”

“The hard truth was that the airline needed to fundamentally restructure to secure our future. This is a heart-wrenching decision to have to make, for which I am truly sorry,” he said.

In June 2002, after the collapse of The Treasure Restaurant Group, at least 1,500 workers had lost their jobs in a single day. That was termed the “worst mass lay-off in Hong Kong’s labor history.”

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