Cathay Pacific says farewell to Bahrain

The airline paid severance packages to six of its employees, including four Bahrainis

An aircraft of Cathay Pacific is seen in front of air traffic control tower at the Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong, China October 24 2020.

An aircraft of Cathay Pacific is seen in front of air traffic control tower at the Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong, China October 24 2020.

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Hing Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways has ceased its operations to Bahrain after 44 years.

The airline last month announced plans to cut more than 6,000 jobs globally and even axed its regional brand Cathay Dragon to help it weather the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic storm.

The carrier has been operating flights to Bahrain since November 16, 1976. It was the Hong Kong flag carrier’s only Middle East connection with daily flights operating to and from Bahrain, stopping over in Dubai. Now the airline only operates to and from Dubai in the region with a limited service. It stopped flights to Saudi Arabia in 2017.

The GDN learned that the airline paid severance packages to six of its employees, including four Bahrainis.

Furthermore, the newspaper has secured a letter by the airline’s South Asia, Middle East and Africa regional general manager Mark Sutch – addressed to Unitag Group chairman Jamil Wafa – in which he announced the “very hard decision” to stop Cathay operations in Manama.

“As you will know, the airline industry has been drastically affected by the pandemic and Cathay Pacific, like many of our competitors, has in no way been immune to these challenging times.

“Despite a significant injection of cash into the business to sustain us for the interim, we are having to take a very hard look at our operating model as well as our fleet and network for the future.”

He said following a study of the airline’s future size and shape, and travel patterns going forward, the company’s board had decided to cease Cathay Pacific’s operations to Bahrain.

“There is no plan to resume operations in 2021.

“Similar decisions have been made to cease operations to many other destinations across the network.”

Mr Sutch is the son of the airline’s former head Peter Sutch, who along with aviation pioneer Mr Wafa secured Bahrain’s status as the carrier’s first Middle East destination in 1976.

“I too have a strong affliation with Bahrain that precedes my time in this role and starts with my late father’s passion for the Arab world and his respect and fondness for Bahrain, in particular,” Mr Sutch said in the letter.

“Bahrain has played a monumental role in the history of Cathay Pacific and was key to us spreading our wings and operating our first long-haul destination to London in the early 1980s.

“Such history cannot be erased.”

Meanwhile, a former employee who was sacked in October told the GDN that the airline’s last flight from Bahrain was on February 27, after which it was halted due to Covid-19 regulations.

“There were six staff based in Manama including four Bahrainis who all received severance packages last month,” the former employee told the GDN on the condition of anonymity.

Cathay Pacific is well-known for its exceptional premium offering with the Business Class cabin’s fully flatbeds, all aisle access seats, and a world-class dining experience that include signature dishes.

The airline announced its corporate restructuring on October 21 to create a more focused, efficient and competitive business in response to the unprecedented paralysis of the aviation market caused by the global pandemic.

It announced earlier this month that 2,613 pilots and 7,346 cabin crew have signed on to the new conditions of service, while executive pay cuts will continue throughout 2021.

A third voluntary Special Leave Scheme for non-flying employees will be introduced in the first half of next year.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts global passenger traffic will not return to pre-Covid-19 levels until 2024.

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