REPORT: Cathay Pacific may close US pilot bases

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Airlines around the world, including Cathay, had to ground thousands of planes at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific Airways is reportedly considering closing its pilot bases in the United States as it continues to cut costs to stem a cash drain from operating so few flights during the COVID crisis, according to a recent Bloomberg report.

Cathay has bases in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Anchorage, a major cargo hub. The airline’s US-based passenger pilots, who operate Boeing 777 aircraft, haven’t flown for more than two years because of the pandemic, and access to Hong Kong remains restricted. There are fewer than Cathay 100 pilots based in the US, where they are on more expensive legacy contracts.

“Our US-based pilots have been informed that the company is contemplating closing all US pilot bases and offering our US-based pilots the opportunity to relocate to Hong Kong, subject to them holding or obtaining the right to live and work in the city,” a Cathay spokeswoman wrote in an email, according to the Bloomberg report.

Cathay has already closed bases in the UK, Canada, Germany, Australia and New Zealand and shed hundreds of pilot jobs due to the devastating impact of the pandemic, which has forced it to operate only a small fraction of its pre-virus flight schedule.

The review comes as the global aviation industry, after cutting thousands of jobs to reduce costs at the height of the pandemic, struggles with a shortage of frontline staff now that most international borders have opened and people are flying again. Hong Kong, however, has been slower to reopen.

Cathay plane dodges a missile
Pilots from a Cathay Pacific aircraft reportedly had to swerve to avoid a ballistic missile that was fired from a Chinese submarine during a test. The aircraft was flying over the South China Sea when the incident occurred. The crew of the Cathay Pacific aircraft was instructed by air traffic control to turn left 90 degrees immediately. The missile is believed to be a JL-3 ballistic missile launched from a from type 094 nuclear submarine. Footage that appeared on social media show the missile being fired from the submarine.

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