Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd has said that all Hong Kong-based pilots and flight attendants will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by August 31 or risk losing their jobs, in one of the airline industry's toughest policies.
Cathay said that it has struggled with staff rostering due to Hong Kong's strict quarantine rules on return that have been loosened for crew that have been vaccinated. There are also requirements that only fully vaccinated crews can operate to certain high-risk destinations and on quarantine-free "bubble" flights.
Hong Kong has a surplus of unused vaccines and some of the shots are about to expire, city authorities have said.
Get a FREE Digital Subscription!Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
Cathay said that 90% of pilots and more than 65% of cabin crew have been vaccinated already, or have appointments for vaccinations, following a previous warning that vaccination was highly likely to become compulsory.
"We understand there will be some who cannot take a vaccine and we will look into accommodating them on a short-term basis where we can," the airline said in a statement. "However, we will review the future employment of those who are unable to become vaccinated and assess whether they can continue to be employed as aircrew with Cathay Pacific."
Cathay's new policy was first reported by The South China Morning Post and comes amid varying industry approaches to crew vaccinations.
United Airlines Holdings Inc said last week that it will mandate full vaccination for crew members flying to countries with high COVID-19 cases at the beginning of August, while Delta Air Lines Inc said last month that all new hires will have to be vaccinated.
Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd has said that it will require all passengers and crew to be vaccinated when the country's borders reopen to widespread international travel.
Emirates has provided employees with free vaccines since January, and later told staff that they have to get vaccinated or pay for regular tests to prove they are not infected.
Cathay Pacific Forecasts Reduced Monthly Cash Burn In H2
In other Cathay Pacific news, the airline's chief financial office has said that it expects to reduce its cash burn to less than HK$1 billion ($128.84 million) a month in the second half of the year.
The airline has been burning up to HK$1.9 billion of cash per month in the first half due to crew quarantine restrictions but that will fall in the second half as rules are eased for vaccinated crew and capacity rises, chief financial officer Rebecca Sharpe said at an analyst briefing.
A webcast of the invitation-only briefing was made public after the briefing took place.
Cathay has been operating just 8% of its usual passenger capacity at a time when passenger numbers are down more than 99% due to international border restrictions.
"There has been no significant change in the last few months in the dramatic impact COVID-19 has had on passengers to Hong Kong," Sharpe said.
By August, it hopes to increase capacity to 20% of pre-COVID levels as Chinese students return to the US and the UK for studies and that could rise to 30% in the fourth quarter as travel restrictions to Singapore and mainland China ease, Cathay chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam said.
This month, Cathay said that losses in the first half are expected to be "somewhat" lower than last year, due to cost-saving measures and strong demand for cargo flights.
The monthly cash burn figure at Cathay is a bit higher than the S$100 million ($74.51 million) to S$150 million ongoing level that was reported by rival Singapore Airlines Ltd last month.
Both airlines lack domestic markets and have been reliant on cargo traffic for most of their revenue since the pandemic began.
Cathay said that 89 of the 239 planes in its fleet are in long-term storage in Australia and Spain. The airline has HK$32.8 billion liquidity available and will consider raising more funds when it can be done at a reasonable cost, Sharpe said.
News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.