Latvian airline airBaltic has today revealed plans to cut staff by as many as 250 employees. The airline is mainly looking to crew for the cuts which, for now, are said to be temporary. CEO Martin Gauss said of the situation that it was a “hard, but necessary decision”.
airBaltic, the Latvian short-haul specialist, has today announced further cuts to its route network as it grapples with the fallout of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. As well as slashing routes, the airline is looking to trim staff numbers by as many as 250 personnel in an effort to drive down its overheads in the current climate.
The airline is reported by Flight Global to be eyeing layoffs mainly in the crew space. The staff cuts are believed to be a temporary measure, affecting only a small proportion of the airline’s 1,600 employees.
Among the solutions on the table are requesting staff to take unpaid leave, not extending probation time for new hires, asking for volunteers and potentially termination of contracts too. The employees at airBaltic were advised of the plans during an extraordinary staff briefing held earlier today.
The airline released a statement on the situation, where CEO Martin Gauss is quoted to have said,
“This is a hard, but necessary decision. We had a very positive start of this year in the first two months, but now we are facing extraordinary circumstances. We must do this now to be able to rehire people and be back on our growth path once the situation improves. We will go through this difficult time together and maintain a close dialogue with our employees.”
“Right now, there is no option to continue as usual – flights need to be cancelled, aircraft grounded, we see a sharp and unexpected decline in bookings. But we are certain that the situation will get back to normal. We sincerely hope for understanding among our colleagues and the Latvian society in these difficult times.”
More flight cancellations
airBaltic has been hit with the coronavirus related slump in travel demand just as hard as any other airline. As of today, the airline has canceled some 580 flights between March 31st and May 31st. Specific destinations canceled entirely include flights to Milan and Verona, suspended until the end of April, as well as Rome and Tel Aviv, through to the end of May.
The suspension of Italian services doesn’t come as any big surprise. Italy has been in lockdown since the start of this week, with over 10,000 of the population suffering with the coronavirus. Canceling flights to Tel Aviv is almost certainly a response to the recent block on foreigners entering the country, as imposed by the Israeli government.
It’s a stark change from the massive summer expansion we were reporting from the airline less than two weeks ago. While it’s not known how long the coronavirus related disruption will last, many other airlines have been extending flight cancellations right through the IATA summer 2020 season.
Australian flag carrier Qantas recently announced huge cuts to flight schedules, right through to mid-September, and the behemoth that is American Airlines has also altered schedules right up to the start of fall.
airBaltic isn’t alone in seeking to shed some personnel during this crisis time. Yesterday, Norwegian Air was revealed to be looking to cut around 3,000 jobs in a bid to stay in business. It remains to be seen if these measures are enough to save the airlines from collapse.