Hong Kong Airlines has taken the drastic step of offering surplus foreign pilots voluntary leave without obligation to repay salary advances and training costs. The carrier has experienced a slowdown following a wave of protests in the region, and now feels the need to trim its operating costs.
With the carrier having already been forced to drop routes to Cairns, Gold Coast, Auckland, and Fuzhou, China, Hong Kong Airlines’ operation has been scaled back significantly. And the carrier has now been forced to offer foreign pilots the opportunity to leave, according to Aviation International News.
Most of the pilots that have been offered this voluntary leave option hail from Europe, although there are also a small number that are native to Southeast Asia. Officials from the airline have also announced that the company will scrap its daily Airbus A350-900 San Francisco flight on October 5, while also reducing flights to Los Angeles. These plans will leave a significant number of Hong Kong Airlines pilots idle.
San Francisco has proved to be a particularly challenging market for the Hong Kong-based carrier, with a wealth of competition meaning that attracting passengers has proved problematical. Cathay Pacific, United Airlines, and Singapore Airlines are all flying to San Francisco regularly, and officials from Hong Kong Airlines have indicated that this force of competition is impacting on the airline’s operations.
Hong Kong protests
This is particularly true amid the backdrop of ongoing protests in Hong Kong, which has weakened market demand for air travel. The seriousness of the situation forced Hong Kong Airlines to contemplate what it describes as a ‘formal voluntary separation scheme’, with flight attendants and other staff also to be made offers over the next couple of months.
As the challenges of the existing climate in Hong Kong hits home, Hong Kong Airlines has already announced plans to reduce its current fleet of aircraft by nearly one-third. Its fleet currently consists of six Airbus A350-900s, 10 A330-300s,11 A330-200s, and 12 A320s, but this will be reduced by 11 aircraft by the end of Q1 in 2020.
Officials from the carrier have acknowledged that the future outlook for the company shows no signs of brightening. “It would not be a surprise should HKA be reduced to a regional carrier due to the highly competitive market,” an official told Aviation International News.
2019 has certainly been a troubling year for Hong Kong Airlines, with the carrier forced to announce just last month that it will be cutting capacity throughout the remainder of 2019. Flights will be reduced by 7%, and the number of tickets going on sale will be reduced by 9%, amid the continuing protests in Hong Kong.
Airlines operating within Hong Kong approached the government for assistance, as a wide variety of businesses and industries struggle to cope with the impact of these protests. The Board of Airline Representatives of Hong Kong requested that the government implements measures such as the waiving of fees, in order to assist the beleaguered airline industry.