By Cailey Rizzo
February 05, 2020
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Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific is asking its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave between March 1 and the end of June, due to a “significant” drop in demand for flights following the coronavirus outbreak, CNN reported.

The airline is also implementing hiring freezes, asking suppliers for price reductions, and stopping all non-critical spending, chief executive Augustus Tang told employees in a video, according to Reuters.

“This has been one of the most difficult Chinese New Year holidays we have ever had,” Tang said in the video. “We don’t know how long this will last. With such an uncertain outlook, preserving our cash is now the key to protecting our business.”

Credit: Michael Wels/Getty Images

Over the next two months, Cathay Pacific will cut about 30 percent of its flights, including 90 percent of trips to mainland China.

The airline also asked employees to take unpaid time off in 2009, after the global financial crisis. A similar situation occurred in 2003 during the SARS outbreak, from which the airline was able to recover.

Cathay Pacific has been fighting a rough year, with demand for flights to Hong Kong already impacted during the protests that broke out during the summer and severely affected Hong Kong International Airport. In December, the airline reported that it only transported half the number of inbound passengers that it had in the same month the year before.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, several airlines around the world have stopped flying to China until the epidemic calms down.