Cathay Pacific sent an email to Vancouver-based cabin-crew staff on March 5 that said that the company intends to close its base in Vancouver. A former employee at the airline told Business in Vancouver that the number of jobs affected are about 150. The rumoured date for the close of operations is June 26, although that date was not contained in the message to staff.
BIV was told that the airline also bases dozens of pilots in Vancouver, and it is not clear whether that will continue.
"The commercial viability of the Vancouver cabin crew base has been a concern to us for some time," said the email to the cabin crew sent by Jeanette Mao, the airline's general manager of the in-flight service department.
"Starting from early 2019, we have been engaging with your union — CUPE — to discuss the long term sustainability of the base. Unfortunately we have been unable to reach any agreement."
Her email went on to note: "With the current business environment and changes to our operations globally and to Vancouver, the decision could not be postponed further. I am afraid we have now reached the point where we can no longer foresee circumstances in which it is possible for us to sustain this way of operating the base."
She went on to say that she appreciates that "this will come as disappointing and unsettling news for all of you" and she alerted the cabin crew that someone would be available in Vancouver to answer questions.
The email did not mention the coronavirus COVID-19, which is rapidly spreading across the globe, making travellers skittish and pummelling airline companies' share prices.
Cathay Pacific announced in September that, as of March 27, it will stop flying non-stop between Vancouver and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The airline told BIV in an email at the time that the changes were "to ensure the most efficient aircraft deployment and scheduling."
The Hong Kong-based carrier has flown out of its home base to Vancouver since 1983 and it added flights between Vancouver and New York in 1996. At the time, the route carried the airline’s only flights to the Big Apple.
Cathay Pacific then launched non-stop flights between Hong Kong and New York in 2004, and it has been operating 21 flights per week on that route. Its intention when it announced that it would no longer fly between Vancouver and New York was to increase the number of non-stop Hong Kong–New York flights. It is unclear with COVID-19 spreading and many travellers cancelling trips, exactly how many weekly flights Cathay Pacific will be flying on that route.