New York (CNN Business)Airline passenger traffic is plunging around the world because of coronavirus. That means tens of thousands of airline workers will probably soon be out of work, at least temporarily.
Airlines are already adjusting its staffing by asking employees to take vacation at reduced pay or unpaid leaves of absence. So far, airlines’ job cuts have not been permanent. But some companies have frozen hiring, which could hurt airlines’ abilities to fill jobs they need filled once the crisis passes.
“Every airline will have to look at doing something like this,” said airline consultant Michael Boyd. “It’s just good, solid planning.”
Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific is the most extreme example so far: It temporarily cut flights by 40%, and it asked all 33,000 of its employees to voluntarily sign up for three-week unpaid leave sometime before the end of June. Cathay had already been struggling before the virus surfaced because of the Hong Kong protests last year.
“Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business,” Cathay said in a statement last month. “We have already been taking multiple measures to achieve this.”
Cathay would not say how many employees had signed up for the leave that it says is voluntary.
Lufthansa, which Friday announced a 50% drop in capacity it the coming weeks, said it is talks with its unions about the way to avoid layoffs including reduced hours for staff. It was already having employees take unpaid leave.
Dubai-based Emirates, which like Cathay is also completely dependent on international travel, has similarly urged employees to take a leave of absence.
“The knock on effect of these operational changes has resulted in more resources than required in certain areas of the business for our day to day requirements,” said the airline in a statement. It said it wants to protect its workforce and limit the impact of the outbreak, but it will allow employees to take “voluntary unpaid leave” for up to one month at a time.
Earlier this week, United Airlines ( and )JetBlue ( both announced )cuts in their schedules because of sharply lower demand, and b