United Airlines to close cabin crew bases in HK

United Airlines will close its cabin crew bases in Hong Kong, as well as Tokyo and Frankfurt, eliminating a total of 840 jobs, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on international air travel, the Chicago-headquartered carrier announced.

In a statement on Friday, the airline told its employees of the “difficult decision”, with the Hong Kong base hit hardest with 319 jobs lost, the South China Morning Post reported on Saturday.

The airline has been associated with the city since the 1990s.

“In the current and future environment, we simply are not able to sustain an in-flight base at these locations,” United’s senior vice-president of in-flight services John Slater said in the statement.

“We recognise that closing any base places hardship on those who live near those locations.”

The closures will take effect from October 1, the first day of the expiry of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a package of $50 billion in government grants and loan guarantees for US carriers.

Airlines were not permitted to lay off staff before the end of September as part of the payroll aid package.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific had closed all of its North American flight attendant bases in five cities over the past 14 months with the loss of 566 employees, more recently announcing the closure of its US bases in April, reports the South China Morning Post.

The International Air Transport Association said that airlines faced losing $314 billion in ticket sales this year, which accounts for 55 per cent of all passenger revenue generated last year.

Most airlines are predicting a recovery to take at least three years, with long-haul international air travel the slowest to regain its health.