HONG KONG, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways Limited Wednesday announced to eliminate about 8,500 job positions, which accounts for around 24 percent of the group's established headcount of 35,000.

Of the 8,500 positions, about 5,300 Hong Kong-based employees will be made redundant in the coming weeks, and approximately 600 employees based outside of Hong Kong possibly being affected subject to local regulatory requirements. The remaining 2,600 positions to be eliminated are currently unfilled, owing to cost reduction initiatives in recent months including a hiring freeze and the closure of certain overseas bases, the company said.

Cathay Dragon, a wholly-owned subsidiary airline of the Cathay Pacific, will cease its operations with effect from Wednesday. It is intended that regulatory approval will be sought for a majority of Cathay Dragon's routes to be operated by Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Express Airways Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company.

Hong Kong-based cabin and cockpit crew of Cathay Pacific will be asked to agree to changes in their conditions of service which are designed, inter alia, to match remuneration more closely to productivity and to enhance market competitiveness.

The restructuring will cost approximately 2.2 billion Hong Kong dollars (about 283 million U.S. dollars), which will be funded by the company through its internal resources.

The company said that the airline industry faces significant challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the future remains highly uncertain and it is clear that recovery is slow. Based on the International Air Transport Association's predictions, passenger travel will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024.

The management team of the company has concluded that the most optimistic scenario it can responsibly adopt is one in which, for the year 2021, the company will be operating at well under 50 percent of the passenger capacity it operated in 2019.