Cathay Canceled 34 Flights as Pilots Fell ill

Cathay Pacific Airways, the flagship carrier of Hong Kong, announced the cancellation of  another 28 flights. The pilots are not reporting to work this week. Cathay Pacific stopped flights to Beijing, Dubai, Delhi and London.

Cathay on Friday said a “small number of flights” had been cancelled, after it experienced “higher than anticipated pilot absence caused by seasonal illness on certain days in December”. Pilots the Post spoke to said the problem of flight cancellations might persist because of the shortage of experienced cockpit crew.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, which has been struggling with flight cancellations during the holiday period, leaving passengers frustrated,  admitted that the   problem has been exacerbated by pilots approaching the  12-month  limit of flight hours.

Airport data shows Cathay cancelled  9%  of  the 126 planned departures from Hong Kong on Dec.  30.  The airline cancelled another six flights on Sunday. Its representatives did not respond to requests for comment outside of business hours.

“This has been an extremely challenging time for us,” Chris Kempis wrote in a memo to pilots seen Saturday by Bloomberg News.  He called the confluence of factors “a learning point for us”  and it’s up to  me to make sure we don’t see a recurrence of the same situations going forward.

Cathay Pacific will cancel at least 34 flights from today to next Sunday.

Cathay: Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific cancels over a dozen flights in past week

Another wave of cancellations of at least 34  flights was announced yesterday,  after the airline cancelled more than 70  flights between last Friday and yesterday due to the absence of pilots due to the flu. The flights cancelled this week include flights to Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, Dubai,  Delhi and Dhaka.

According to the Hong Kong Aviation Forum’s Facebook page and Cathay Pacific’s website, among the cancelled flights,  CX360 and CX369 from Shanghai Pudong International Airport will be cancelled for a full six-day period. According to the forum, the airline will rebook flights for the next available flight for affected passengers,  who are advised to pay attention and check for new flight updates via Cathay’s website.

The airline had earlier apologised to affected passengers and promised to minimise the impact of the cancellations. The airline’s overall operations remained normal and it has significantly increased the number of flights during the peak holiday travel period, it added.

The airline will also award goodwill status points to affected members who experienced flight cancellations at the end of last month and were unable to fly to complete their status renewal due to flight cancellations. Steve Hyun Kwok-chuen, executive director of travel agency EGL, said he and two groups of tour members were rearranged on other flights on the same day during the last weekend, and  so far no tour group has been affected during the Lunar New Year.

Amid continued recovery from the disruption  of the pandemic, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. recently announced the cancellation of some year-end flights,  a decision taken due to an unexpected increase in the absence of pilots due to illness. The decision underlines the continuing challenges faced by the aviation industry in its recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Impact of seasonal illness and COVID-19

The reason for the sudden increase in the absence of pilots is attributed to seasonal illness, which has further reduced the already low pilot ranks in Cathay Pacific.  The airline is facing an acute shortage of pilots after thousands of jobs were lost and the remaining employees took up to  50%  pay cuts during the peak of the Covid pandemic. The pilot staff is now 2,532,  a 35%  decline since the end of  2019.

Cathay: Affected Flights and Airline Response

Cathay Hong Kong Affected Flights and Airline Response

Around  11% of the airline’s Hong Kong flights were cancelled on Friday, affecting major routes such as London Heathrow, Sydney, Delhi, Taipei   ,  Shanghai and Singapore. However, the airline reassured the public that overall operations remained normal, with only a ‘small number’ of flights affected. Since mid-December,  less than  1% of all passenger flights have been cancelled. Cathay Pacific expresses sincere regret to the passengers affected and is committed to minimizing the impact on its customers.

Cathay Pacific’s decision reflects the continuing challenges that the aviation industry is facing in its journey to recover from COVID-19 disruptions. The reduction in the number of employees, salary cuts and now the unexpected increase in the absence of pilots due to seasonal illness have forced the industry to adapt to the new normal. It is a clear reminder of the delicate balance that airlines must maintain to ensure continuity and safety of their operations amid a rapidly changing environment.

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