Hong Kong’s largest airline Cathay Pacific is offering bonuses to pilots willing to fly during the lunar new year period as part of its attempts to minimise disruption during the major holiday season.
According to reports, the airline has offered bonuses of 30%, 25%, and 15% of the aircrew’s usual hourly rates, in the hopes of enticing staff to take shifts between 7 and 18 February.
The offer is the latest attempt by Cathay Pacific to address predicted disruptions during the Lunar New Year holiday (Spring Festival), one of the biggest in Asia, following its cancellation of 12 flights per day through to the end of February, a move criticised by pilot unions and local authorities.
The annual festival is one of the largest human migrations in Asia, with 480 million trips expected in China alone over the full 40-day period.
The decision reflected the airline’s ongoing staffing problem, stemming from employee departures during the Covid-19 pandemic when the company issued new contracts for pilots.
Paul Weatherilt, chairman of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association (HKAOA), told Bloomberg: “It’s a band-aid measure, not a solution. It’s an acknowledgment that even with a reduced Lunar New Year schedule compared to 2019, Cathay is still short of pilots.”
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According to the HKAOA in December 2023, Cathay is operating with around 58% of the pilots it had during 2019 for its passenger operations, limiting its growth and increasing the effect of any staff illnesses.
However, the airline did record a 541.5% increase in the number of passengers carried on its services in 2023 compared to 2022.