Cathay Pacific Closes All US Flight Attendant Bases

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

Ugh — nearly 300 people will be losing their jobs, and it will also be the end of an era for Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific foreign crew bases

Cathay Pacific was unique among airlines in that they had quite a few foreign crew bases, from London to Los Angeles to Singapore.

While most Cathay Pacific flight attendants are based in Hong Kong, historically they had five crew bases in North America, including in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Unfortunately these bases have slowly been disappearing. Cathay Pacific closed their Toronto crew base in early 2019, and then a few weeks ago announced that they’re closing their Vancouver crew base.

Cathay Pacific A350-1000

Cathay Pacific closing all US crew bases

Cathay Pacific has just revealed plans to close all of their US crew bases, including in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. As reported by the South China Morning Post, the decision impacts a total of 286 cabin crew based in the US, as the company says that these crew bases are no longer viable.

Obviously Cathay Pacific has had an incredibly challenging 12 months. Things were looking up for the Hong Kong-based airline in early 2019, when the company returned to profitability. But then the Hong Kong protests started, and that was followed by the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought global travel to a standstill.

With the five crew bases in North America now being closed, Cathay Pacific’s only remaining foreign bases are in Bangkok, London, and Singapore.

Cathay Pacific 777-300ER first class

Why is Cathay Pacific closing North America bases?

While demand is obviously way down, Cathay Pacific hasn’t laid off any of their Hong Kong cabin crew. The reason they’re starting by closing their North American bases is presumably because they don’t have the same union as Hong Kong based flight attendants.

Involuntary furloughs in Hong Kong would be a challenge with the union, while cutting bases entirely that are under separate contracts is the easiest way to reduce the headcount at the company.

This is obviously very sad for all the North America based crews.

Cathay Pacific A350-1000 business class

Bottom line

My thoughts are with all the North America based Cathay Pacific crews losing their jobs.

While Hong Kong based crews have long been more consistently polished when it comes to service, there’s something I loved about Cathay Pacific’s US based crews. They were a bit more informal, and it almost felt like a hybrid between flying a US based carrier and an Asian carrier. A couple of years ago I even wrote about how my Cathay Pacific flight attendant used to work for US Airways.

  1. It is very interesting now to consider / discuss unions.
    I know its not your blog…. but more for CNBC early morning conversation. Still- so much to consider how life will no longer be the same.

  2. Do any other airlines have foreign bases in the US?

    I believe United has FA’s in Hong Kong.

    As of now, American is not using any of their FA’s from any of their NY bases.

  3. FYI – on SCMP:

    “Cathay’s US cabin crew in 2017 voted to unionise for better pay and conditions, following a dispute during which the airline stopped pension contributions, leaving staff facing the loss of government retirement payouts and post-retirement health insurance protection.
    Last year it ratified its first three-year contract with the company, which at the time included immediate pay increases, back pay, schedule flexibility and retirement security for flight attendants.”

    So I wouldn’t assume its because HK based unions are more strong; it could just be that these US-based unionized crew just became too expensive to keep.

  4. I think this is more a industry wide contraction the same is being said for many other industries today. Within my own company this discussion is being had. While its sad to see things like this happen most likely it’s cheaper to always have a crew on “rest” in certain locations rather than a full base operations.

  5. TWA used to have a base in Paris and a base in Rome besides in NY, and LA for international flights.

  6. Very sorry to hear about the loss of jobs to Cathay crew.

    In recollection, the misfortunes of Cathay started in 2019 with their human error that priced out millions of dollars worth of First Class asia / north america flights at Coach fare, then rolled into HK protests, and then coronavirus.

    I hope they pull out of this well, as I’m a fan [of Cathay Pacific, not Mandarin Oriental].

  7. One one my best friend and his wife are CX Los Angeles base crew. He told me they both lose their job yesterday.

  8. I’m a DM (diamond member) who frequent lax-hkg-lax flights. I will definitely miss the lax base crew. They have the can do attitude, professionalism and genuinely kind. Flights will never be the same without them.

  9. I am one of the CX US base crew. It is a heartbreaking news for ALL of us. Especially in this pandemic time. It is our pleasure to serve our passengers and it is heart warming to see we will be missed. Hope one day we will be able to serve our passengers in the sky again.

  10. And they don’t get unemployment benefit from us government either because Cathay found a loop hole two years ago to make itself a foreign company so they don’t have to contribute to SSI and edd. ( Wife’s one of the crew got lost her job yesterday )

  11. We are booked in September to fly Cathay Pacific from JFK to Bali thru Hong Kong I hope you and us are all back to work to make this dream trip happen..

  12. @Endre

    I have a couple of questions for you.
    1. If you ALWAYS fly on a paid business or first class ticket is that because a deep pocketed corporation is paying for your flights, and you are fortunate enough to benefit from this corporate spend? Do your paid business or first class tickets extend to your personal/aspirational trips that you take?
    2. With all of the miles/points you are accumulating from ALWAYS flying paid business or first class, what are you doing with all those points/miles? Converting them to Amazon gift cards, perhaps?[!!]. I feel sure you are earning them for your travel otherwise you likely wouldn’t be reading OMAAT?

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