HONG KONG: Cathay Pacific Airways is asking its 27,000 employees to take turns in taking three weeks of unpaid leave while the Hong Kong carrier struggles with plunging revenue due to China’s virus outbreak, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

In a video message to employees, CEO Augustus Tang said the situation is as grave as the 2009 financial crisis, The South China Morning Post reported.

On Tuesday, Cathay announced a 90 per cent reduction in flight capacity to mainland China, which has cancelled group tours and told businesspeople to put off foreign travel while Beijing fights the outbreak centred on the city of Wuhan.

The carrier cut 30 per cent of its worldwide capacity for two months.

The airline used similar “special leave” in 2009 and during the 2003 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which also led to cuts in flights.