Coronavirus Prompts Asiana To Offer Staff Unpaid Leave

Asiana Airlines, based in Seoul, is the latest airline to face the impact of the continued spread of coronavirus. This week, the airline has asked staff to take unpaid leave as it temporarily cuts operations to China. The airline has not stated how many staff will be affected by the move.

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Asiana Airlines has asked staff to take unpaid leave due to the financial impact of coronavirus. Photo: Getty

Asiana Airlines, one of South Korea’s largest airlines, has asked its cabin crew to take unpaid leave between 15 and 29 of February due to the effect of coronavirus. The airline has said it is trying to minimize expenditure while flights to China are restricted or suspended.

Asiana operates several routes to China which amount to almost 20% of its annual sales. It has been forced to suspended or minimize its routes due to the outbreak. This includes routes to Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenyang as well as routes to Hong Kong.

The airline has a total of 4,078 cabin crew members who could be affected by the cuts. But it isn’t the only airline to implement forced leave for its employees. Last week Cathay Pacific, based in Hong Kong, asked its entire force of 27,000 employees to consider taking unpaid leave in the coming months.

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Cathay Pacific also asked staff to take unpaid leave. Photo: Getty Images

Continue effect of coronavirus

While Asiana Airlines will no doubt feel the effect on its sales this year, other airlines are also being affected by the restrictions on traveling to China. Asiana relies on flights to China for 20% of its sales. However, Finnair gets almost half its revenue from flights to China and is reportedly considering laying off some pilots. The Chinese carriers themselves are obviously having the hardest time dealing with the effects of the outbreak.

But it isn’t only airlines who are being affected by the impact of the virus. The tourism industry in the entire region is expected to be massively impacted over the coming year. Recently, Both Thailand and Japan were predicted to be at risk of losing out on almost $1bn of revenue from tourism.

Asiana Airlines has currently only requested staff take leave in February; it is reportedly considering extending this into March. Most airlines are expecting the impact to continue for several months as the virus continues to cause havoc.

After the virus

Asiana Airlines is among the many airlines that will continue to feel the effect of the virus long after the outbreak is contained. Many airlines have reported a drop in demand for flights to the region as the public loses trust.

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The demand for flights has dropped considerably and will continue to impact airlines after the virus is contained. Photo: Getty Images

The result is that once flights are up and running as normal, they may not recover in terms of capacity for several months. The only potential positive impact of the virus on the aviation industry is that due to a reduction in aircraft being used to fly to China, airlines which have previously been struggling due to the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX, are able to use the now surplus aircraft to cover other routes.

But the question on everyone’s lips now is which airline will be next to announce forced leave. As airlines concentrate on saving money, the effect is being felt by the airlines but also by their staff.