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Cathay Pacific to cut thousands of jobs and axe Cathay Dragon airline as Covid-19 weighs on travel

Hong Kong (CNN Business)Cathay Pacific (CPCAY) is eliminating thousands of jobs and shuttering its regional airline Cathay Dragon as the Covid-19 pandemic roils the global travel industry.

The cuts will affect 5,300 employees in Hong Kong, where the company is based. Some 600 workers outside of the Asian financial hub will also be affected, Cathay said in a statement.

The company also plans to eliminate additional jobs that remained unfilled, either through a recruitment freeze or natural attrition. All told, Cathay is reducing about 8,500 jobs across the company, accounting for about 24% of its headcount.

"We have taken every possible action to avoid job losses up to this point," said Cathay Pacific Group CEO Augustus Tang in a statement. He said the airline has scaled back capacity, deferred new aircraft deliveries, frozen recruitment and cut executive pay, among other measures.

Even so, Tang said the company continues to burn as much as 2 billion Hong Kong dollars ($258 million) per month. Wednesday's changes will reduce the company's cash burn by about 500 million Hong Kong dollars ($65 million) per month, he added.

Cathay Pacific stock jumped 4% Wednesday in Hong Kong after the news.

Like other major airlines, Cathay Pacific has taken drastic steps to shore up its business this year. Earlier this summer, the Hong Kong government agreed to lead a $5 billion bailout of the airline, taking a minority stake.
Cathay said this week it expects to operate approximately 10% of pre-pandemic passenger flight capacity for the rest of 2020, and under 50% for 2021.

A lack of consumer confidence, the drop in business travel, and fresh coronavirus spikes in the United States, Europe and elsewhere continue to weigh heavily on global air travel.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents some 290 airlines, said last week that it estimates airline revenues this year will be down at least 50% ($419 billion compared to $838 billion in 2019). The trade group urged governments to use Covid-19 testing to safely re-open borders and called for more financial support "to prevent the systemic collapse of the aviation industry," IATA said in a statement last week.

-- Sherisse Pham contributed to this report.

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