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28 May, 2020 15:10

‘Tsunami of job losses’: Airlines going bust & firing HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of employees as pandemic crushes global travel

‘Tsunami of job losses’: Airlines going bust & firing HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of employees as pandemic crushes global travel

International carriers which have been suffering massive losses due to the coronavirus crisis are massively cutting their workforce, leaving thousands without jobs. More cuts could come as the prospects for a quick recovery fade.

Europe’s top airlines said they would have to ax tens of thousands of jobs in order to cut costs because of the rapidly deteriorating medium-term outlook for aviation. According to the general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, Brian Strutton, aviation workers face a “tsunami of job losses.”

Ryanair, Lufthansa, British Airways, Scandinavian Airlines, and Air France-KLM could shed as many as 32,000 jobs among them. The Irish discount carrier Ryanair will cut 3,000 jobs and keep 99 percent of flights grounded through June, adding to a mounting employment toll that includes 12,000 cuts at British Airways and 5,000 at SAS AB.

EasyJet announced on Thursday it will cut up to 30 percent of its workforce and reduce its fleet, with CEO Johan Lundgren saying these were “very difficult decisions.”

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“We want to ensure that we emerge from the pandemic an even more competitive business than before, so that easyJet can thrive in the future.”

Europe’s largest airline, Lufthansa, which has agreed to a €9 billion state bailout, is still preparing to cut 18,000 jobs. The German carrier has already requested or plans to request short-time work for 87,000 of its 135,000-strong workforce.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic plans to cut more than 3,000 jobs to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

European low-cost airlines are also pressuring airports which have been left deserted to slash charges in return for resuming flights. Wizz Air, Ryanair, and EasyJet have reportedly demanded long-lasting fee discounts or waivers from airports.

Ryanair said it “will prioritize those airports who agree the following load factor/cost measures,” before requesting a “100 percent waiver” on fees until October and deep cuts extending another year.

EasyJet invited airports to make Apprentice-style pitches during 20-minute Skype sessions held recently “to discuss how you can and will support easyJet to restart operations.” The company said: “We request that you present to us your best offer, which will strongly influence how we deploy capacity.”

While the pandemic has led to a 96 percent plunge in air travel within the United States, the nation’s airlines are not allowed to implement any layoffs as a condition of their $25 billion bailout package. However, the ban only runs until September 30.

United Airlines has already told staff it plans job cuts of at least 30 percent on October 1. According to reports, a third of United’s 12,250 pilots may have to leave the company. Other airlines, including Delta, also have warned of coming job cuts.
Around 100,000 employees at the four major US airlines (American, United, Delta, and Southwest) have also agreed to take salary cuts or unpaid leave, some for as long as nine months.

American Airlines announced on Thursday it is planning to cut 30 percent of its management and support staff, a reduction of about 5,000 jobs, because of the toll the pandemic is taking on the business. The carrier had about 130,000 employees at the end of 2019 and so far, about 39,000 have taken voluntary leave or early retirement.

Among other global carriers to cut staff, Qatar Airways, which flew to more than 170 destinations, has warned employees of “substantial” redundancies amid the collapse in demand for air travel. Meanwhile, AirAsia Group earlier pledged to keep all of its staff members on its books amid the global aviation crisis, even though 96 percent of its fleet is currently parked.

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Air travel has been one of the hardest-hit industries, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warning that the Covid-19 outbreak will result in up to $314 billion in lost revenue for carriers.

Similarly, aviation consultancy CAPA said earlier this month that by the end of May, “most airlines in the world will be bankrupt” without coordinated government and industry intervention.

The list of airlines that have collapsed, declared bankruptcy, or suspended operations so far includes: UK regional airline Flybe, Virgin Australia, US regional carrier Trans States Airlines, as well as Compass Airlines (which is owned by Trans States Holdings), Air Italy, South African Airways, Latin America’s two largest airlines (Avianca and LATAM), and others.

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