Cathay Pacific has confirmed the Hong Kong government is denying non-local pilot visas into the country as overseas workers attempt to relocate.
Since the pandemic began, the airline has closed down several pilot bases across Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and more in a bid to curb costs from the travel decline.
The airline initially pledged that staff could retain employment if they relocated to Hong Kong.
The South China Morning Post first reported the news after hearing from a Cathay spokeswoman that all visa applications have been rejected.
“We have been informed by the Immigration Department that the work permit applications from overseas-based pilots who have applied to relocate to Hong Kong have been rejected,” they said.
“We are reaching out to support these officers, many of whom will have the opportunity to elect an enhanced termination benefit.”
Immigration data noted that for the first eight months of the year, there were almost 500 visa applications recorded from non-local pilots and 73 were seeking a first-time work permit.
But all of the applications were rejected and now Cathay will be prompted to terminate their employment.
“Sadly, this represents yet another blow to those who have staked their career on Cathay Pacific Airways,” said Alex Jackson, chairman of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association.
“This decision was one made by the Hong Kong government, the options for a better resolution were limited and outside our control, especially in the current climate.”
The closures of its regional offshoot Cathay Dragon and overseas cabin crew bases have cut over 5,900 jobs since the start of the pandemic.
Adding to the slew of shuttered pilot bases, the airline confirmed earlier in September that the one in London would close after the majority of pilots have not had flying duties since April 2020.
Cathay is also considering closing down its bases in the United States, but will review the decision later this year.
Despite the major concerns over rejected visas, the SCMP quoted an unnamed spokesperson who claimed local pilots have been jobless for months after being promised employment.
“It is good to see that immigration is recognising this and denying new work visas as per their own policy, and we still hope that they extend this to visa renewals to expedite the re-employment of local pilots,” the anonymous source said.
World of Aviation has requested Cathay Pacific to comment but the airline has yet to respond.