world of aviation logo

Cathay threatens London base closure, over 100 jobs at risk

written by Isabella Richards | July 22, 2021

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 B-LXK at Melbourne Airport. (Dave Soderstrom)
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 B-LXK at Melbourne Airport. (Dave Soderstrom)

Hong Kong’s state-owned carrier Cathay Pacific has signalled it will potentially close down its London base, putting over 100 pilot jobs on the line.

While the news has not yet been confirmed, a spokesperson told the South China Morning Post the carrier had informed its affected pilots of the possibility.

“We have notified our London-based pilots and their union representatives of a proposal to close our London pilot base,” the spokesperson said. “This is simply a proposal at this stage and no decisions have been made.”

According to Cathay, much of the affected crew have not been able to fly in over a year, due to subdued demand for international travel, and ongoing border closures.

Prior to the pandemic, Cathay Pacific’s flights from Hong Kong International Airport to London Heathrow were crucial to the carrier’s success.

In 2019, Cathay operated up to five flights a day to the major city, due to increasing demand, however, this was decreased down to one flight per day when the pandemic hit.

The move follows a slew of closures from Cathay Pacific, including in Canada, New Zealand, Germany and, most recently, Australia.


Dozens of pilots were reportedly given the option to relocate to Hong Kong as the company prompted a hiring spree of local pilots, or were forced to remain redundant.

“While we are still not seeing immediate, meaningful signs of growth, the recruitment we are conducting at this stage is about forward planning,” the airline said in a statement when the hiring was announced.

Overall, the carrier has cut more than 5,900 jobs since the start of the pandemic, pending 100 more if the London base closes.

Cathay reported an operating annual loss of $2.8 billion, compared with a thriving 2019 that saw the company profit $220 million.

The move is proposed at a time when the company continues to restructure in its cost-saving efforts.

Last year when the airline announced the closure of its regional brand Cathay Dragon, it proposed a restructuring funded by the company through internal resources, costing around HK$2.2 billion (US$283 million).

In its plan, Cathay said the “cost reduction initiatives in recent months [include] a hiring freeze and the closure of certain overseas bases.”

Cathay announced last month in a briefing it hoped to see decreased cash burn in the later months of this year.

Cathay Pacific expects to lower its cash burn to less than HK$1 billion (US$129 million) a month – down from HK$2.5-3 billion (US$322-386 million) during the peak of the COVID crisis.


Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year