The majority of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon flights between Hong Kong and mainland China are being cut due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Staff have also been asked to take three weeks of unpaid leave as capacity is slashed.

The airline said: “In view of the novel coronavirus outbreak and also significant drop in market demand, we just announced massive capacity cuts yesterday.

“Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business. We have already been taking multiple measures to achieve this.

“Today, we are appealing to all employees to participate in the special leave scheme, which will take effect from 1 March and last until 30 June.

“All employees will have the option to take three weeks of unpaid leave in this period.”

Cathay and its regional subsidiary will be “progressively reducing” around 90% of their flights into the Chinese mainland.

The cutbacks follow a “significant drop” in demand due to coronavirus.

Cathay Pacific also warned of “significant reductions” around the rest of the network over the next two months “depending on market conditions and other factors”.

The Hong Kong-based airline group said: “This will impact Cathay Pacific’s frequencies across the entire network.

“The expectation is that the total impact across the Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon network will be a reduction of approximately 30% of its capacity.

“These reductions are temporary for now and are driven by the commercial and operational realities at the current time, as well as projections in short-term demand.

“Cathay Pacific’s current financial position remains strong and will enable it, despite the current difficult trading conditions, to maintain the quality of its products and services.”