As Cathay Pacific posted a positive H1 result, the like of which it has not seen for over a decade, its pilots have taken their first steps to strike against the airline’s management.
According to an announcement by the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA), it took “the first steps towards industrial action, receiving guidance from legal advisors”. The union, representing pilots of Cathay Pacific, questioned what the consequences would be if the carrier operated at 75% or even 100% of its pre-pandemic capacity. It also challenged how the choices of the airline might impact the prospects of Hong Kong regaining its Global Aviation hub status, “given the lack of pilots, cabin crew and other aviation professionals.”
The HKAOA pointed out that Cathay Pacific requires at least 650 captains, with the airline only having trained about 100 pilots sitting in the left-hand seat. Furthermore, the airline has cut the pay of pilots currently flying by about 25%, possibly even more if their flight schedules are reduced. “During the pandemic and for those pilots still not reactivated, the cuts are up to 60%. Pilot allowances have been cut by 50%; more for some families,” the association continued, adding that in general, pay rates for pilots have been growing globally.
Cathay Pacific, which previously predicted that it would return to profitability in H1 2023, ended the period with a net profit of HKD4.2 billion ($537.1 million) on revenues of HKD43.5 billion ($5.5 billion).
“The first half of 2023 has been a positive period for the Cathay Group, as we worked to rebuild connectivity at the Hong Kong international aviation hub following the full reopening of borders in Hong Kong and in the Chinese Mainland,” said Patrick Healy, Chairman of Cathay Pacific.
As the airline had announced earlier, HKD1.9 billion ($243 million) of the profit was attributed to a one-off non-cash gain when Cathay Pacific diluted its shares in Air China.
“While we are still only part way along our rebuilding journey, our results for the first six months of 2023 demonstrate that we are on the right track,” Healy added, noting that Cathay Pacific is planning to buy back 50% of its preference shares by the end of 2023 for HKD9.75 billion ($1.2 billion), then buying the rest by July 2024. The transaction will be “subject to completion of the proposed capital reduction and its business conditions at the relevant time,” Healy added.
Healy further said that Cathay Pacific’s primary focus is rebuilding capacity to/from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), with the airline aiming to have 70% of its pre-pandemic capacity by the end of this year. The company remains confident that it can restore its full network by the end of 2024.
“On behalf of Cathay, I would like to thank all of our customers for their ongoing support as we work to increase and enhance the services we provide to them,” Healy added, also extending gratitude to Cathay Pacific’s employees. “They have endured incredible challenges over the past few years, but their enthusiasm, drive and can-do spirit have been instrumental to the considerable progress we have already made in our journey of rebuilding Cathay,” the Chairman concluded.
According to a separate announcement released on the same day as the H1 2023 financial results, Cathay Pacific intends to exercise its options to order 32 Airbus A320neo/A321neo aircraft. The airline plans to finalize its purchase rights for the 32 aircraft on or before September 30, 2023.
The Cathay Pacific group includes Cathay Pacific, the low-cost carrier HK Express, and cargo airline Air Hong Kong.