More blows as Express pilots set for pay cuts

Business | Michael Shum 17 Nov 2020

Hong Kong Express pilots will see their salaries slashed by as much as 40 percent under a new contract issued by the airline.

This will be yet another blow to Cathay Pacific's staff after the flagship carrier axed its sister airline Cathay Dragon and laid off 5,300 employees last month.

Hong Kong Express, a budget airline fully owned by Cathay, has offered all 200 of its pilots a new contract.

In a reply to The Standard, the airline said it has no alternative but to adopt necessary measures to reduce its cash burn rate in order to remain competitive during this difficult time.

The airline confirmed that it will request its cockpit and cabin crew to transition to new conditions of service, resulting in adjustments in their total take-home pay.

"The adjustment range for cockpit crew who are not flying will be about 25 to 40 percent, and estimated to be 8 to 14 percent when they resume flying 70 hours or above per month," a spokesman said.

He added those who decide not to accept the new contract will see their employment come to an end.

"These changes are difficult but vital, and absolutely necessary," he said.

"We have taken into account the company's urgent need to remain competitive during this difficult period with most of our fleet grounded, in order for the company to remain resilient and intact in anticipation of the market's recovery."

The spokesman added: "We have also introduced the third round of a voluntary special no-pay leave scheme to all ground staff, where they can take 20 days of special no-pay leave during the first half of 2021."

In a letter, Mandy Ng Kit-man, chief executive of Hong Kong Express, invited the airline's ground crew to voluntarily participate in the next round of the unpaid leave scheme, while adding that she will continue to take a 15 percent pay cut next year along with other members of the management.

"It is not an easy message for me to write, but before the start of the year, we did not envision that the revenue of the company would drop 99 percent," Ng wrote.

"The management and I have made extensive efforts to safeguard the company but they proved insufficient," she added.

Though the airline said there will be no consequences for those who do not join the scheme, a Hong Kong Express ground staff, who did not wish to be identified, said she opted not to join the previous round but her superior kept asking for an explanation and she eventually gave in.

"I will be filling in the consent form as I do not think I have a choice this time either," she said.

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