Qantas will stand down 20,000 staff for the next two months as the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a ‘devastating impact’ on the travel industry.
The airline said in a statement to the ASX that it was also cutting scheduled international flights for the same period from late March until May. It comes in the wake of the government’s warning against overseas travel due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
But they said all essential domestic, regional and freight connections will be maintained as much as possible. Baggage handlers, catering staff, flight attendants and pilots are all set to be affected by the stand down.
It will also see more than 150 aircraft grounded, including all of Qantas’ A380s, 747s and B787-9s, along with Jetstar’s B787-8s.
While stood down, staff will be able to draw down on annual and long service leave, and those with low leave balances at the beginning of the period will be permitted to claim up to four weeks’ leave in advance of accruing it.
Executives and board members have also deferred their own salaries until at least the end of the financial year, MailOnline reported.
CEO Alan Joyce said: ‘We are not getting paid to the end of the year. The efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus have led to a huge drop in travel demand, the likes of which we have never seen before. This is having a devastating impact on all airlines.
‘We’re in a strong financial position right now, but our wages bill is more than $4 billion (£1.9 billion) a year. With the huge drop in revenue we’re facing, we have to make difficult decisions to guarantee the future of the national carrier.
‘The reality is we’ll have 150 aircraft on the ground and sadly there’s no work for most of our people. Rather than lose these highly skilled employees who we’ll need when this crisis passes, we are instead standing down two-thirds of our 30,000 employees until at least the end of May.
‘Most of our people will be using various types of paid leave during this time, and we’ll have a number of support options in place. We’re also talking to partners like Woolworths about temporary job opportunities for our people.’
Earlier on Thursday Australia and New Zealand announced bans on entry to all non-residents will take effect from Friday in an effort to further limit the spread of the potentially deadly infection. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Qantas would assist residents getting home from abroad.
He added: ‘We’re working hard to make sure we can keep some flights open so Australians can make their way back.’ There have so far been more than 600 confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia, with six deaths. New Zealand has recorded 28 confirmed cases.