Cathay Pacific (CX, Hong Kong Int'l) has secured the approval of more than 90% of its employees for an unpaid leave scheme as it struggles to cut short-term costs, the South China Morning Post reported.

The scheme is part of a second round of cost-saving measures at the beleaguered airline and its subsidiaries, which include regional carrier Cathay Dragon, low-cost unit HK Express, and the cargo carrier Air Hong Kong, as they contend with what the management warned will be a "slow" recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an initial round of unpaid leave, covering the period from March to June, around 80% of staff agreed to pay cuts. This next stage covers a further six months, from July to the end of the year.

“I am truly humbled to see more than 90% of employees across the Cathay group take part in this scheme, an even higher percentage than in our first Special Leave Scheme,” said Augustus Tang, Cathay's chief executive, in an internal memo. “There is clearly a strong collective desire to see our company survive and thrive, which I am confident we will.”

Last month, the Hong Kong government underpinned about 75% of a recapitalisation plan at Cathay Pacific worth HKD39 billion Hong Kong dollars (USD5 billion), in exchange for two non-voting boardroom seats and the option of taking a 6.08% stake in the company.

“Further tough decisions to secure our future competitiveness will of course be necessary, but we hope to gradually increase frequencies and destinations when market and regulatory conditions allow,” Tang said.

Cathay Pacific has said that since February it has been burning cash at a rate of up to USD3 billion a month. It has a total workforce of 34,258, around 80% of whom are based in Hong Kong and Macau, according to its 2019 sustainability report released this week. It has said that about 27,000 of its staff are eligible for the government's Employment Support Scheme, a government subsidy to keep Hong Kong workers employed.