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Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific Airways confirmed on Monday that it will lay off almost 600 employees from its head office, in the biggest round of job cuts by Hong Kong’s flag carrier in 20 years.

The airline said most of its restructuring will be completed by this year, citing changing customer habits and a "challenging business environment", the South China Morning Post reported.

A total of 190 management jobs would go immediately. A further 400 non-management staff will be cut by mid-June.

Those numbers account for 25 per cent of management staff and 18 per cent of non-management.

Frontline jobs, including pilots and cabin crew, will be spared.

The cuts are the first step in a three-year programme announced earlier this year aimed at turning around huge losses of the airline, reports the South China Morning Post.

It also marks the first major task overseen by new CEO Rupert Hogg, who replaced Ivan Chu Kwok-leung earlier this month.

"We greatly appreciate and respect our people's dedication, hard work and achievements. However, we have had to make tough but necessary decisions for the future of our business and our customers," Hogg said in a statement.

"Our immediate priority is to support our colleagues affected by today's (Monday) announcement, and I'd like to thank them for all they've done for Cathay Pacific."

The affected employees will receive a redundancy package of 12 months salary, extended medical benefits and counselling.

The airline - comprising Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon - has lost $3 billion Hong Kong dollars in the past year.

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