Cathay asks crew to volunteer for early retirement

PHOTO: Cathay asks crew to volunteer for early retirement

HONG KONG - Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific on Tuesday asked its cabin crew to volunteer for early retirement as part of its cost-cutting measures to boost profitability amid a global slowdown.

Cathay has been trying to trim costs after it fell into the red in the first half of 2012 with a HK$935 million (S$148 million) loss, partly due to high fuel prices that have also dragged down other regional airlines' performance.

The airline said the scheme would be offered to flight attendants who joined the firm before September 1996, to cut cost as well as to help facilitate recruitment and promotion opportunities.

"It is also part of the airline's cost management measures," a spokeswoman said in a statement to AFP, adding that the airline has not set any target on the number of flight attendants that it hopes would sign up for the scheme.

The carrier has around 9,000 cabin crew members, who serve 170 routes in 42 countries and are among over 20,000 staff the airline employs worldwide. It did not say what number of crew members are eligible for the scheme.

Cathay averted an industrial action by its crews - which had threatened to stop serving alcohol and smiling at passengers - over the Christmas holidays last month after it agreed to improve their working conditions.

The protest was sparked by Cathay's bid to give a two per cent pay rise to its employees this year, on top of a discretionary one-month bonus for 2012, falling short of the flight attendants union's demand.

Singapore Airlines, one of Cathay's rivals, earlier this month asked its captains to volunteer for unpaid leave after it posted a 69-per cent plunge in profit in the carrier's financial year ending March 2012.