Airlines have a role to play in preventing the spread of pandemics and should also be prepared to take the financial hit, the country manager of Cathay Pacific said.
Speaking at the 1st Disaster Risk and Crisis Management Forum held in the Asian Institute of Management in Makati on Wednesday, Cathay Pacific’s Robin Bradshaw recalled how the Hong Kong carrier lost some $3 million per day in 2002 due to the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
“Everyone was scared about traveling,” Bradshaw noted, adding that flag carrier was forced to parked 22 out of
Cathay Pacific suspended half of its flights due to the SARS as a travel ban was also ordered.
The airline also temporarily stopped advertising and promotional activities, shifting to disseminating health updates via newsletters, Bradshaw said.
Shareholders also voted to accept 50 percent out in their 2002 final dividend and almost 99 percent of the company’s employees volunteered to take unpaid leaves.
“We engaged actively with other airlines and airports to ensure passengers that it is safe to fly” after the outbreak subsided, Bradshaw said, helping bring tourism back to the territory.
“People need to genuinely believe that it is safe. A strong government with good communication will reduce the risk. Communication de-escalates the outrage and gives off assurance to the people,” he added.
Susan Mercado, the Philippine Red Cross’ lead for public health emergency preparedness and response, underscored the need to inform the public to combat pandemics.
Noting the impact of panic on businesses, Mercado said companies should also consider the balancing their outreach.