Budget carrier GoAir on Tuesday announced suspending international operations and offering leave without pay programme for its staff on a rotational basis, amid "unprecedented" decline in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sources said the airline was also planning a 20 per cent pay cut for employees in a staggered manner.
In a statement, GoAir said the aviation industry has been one of the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic as governments have issued far reaching travel advisories, customers have curtailed their individual travel plans and businesses have restricted the movement of their employees. Special events have been postponed or called off, it added. In the statement to PTI, the airline said the sharp decline in air travel that it was experiencing was "unprecedented". Against this backdrop, the carrier said it was temporarily suspending all international operations, starting March 17 until April 15.
The carrier flies to 35 destinations, including eight international ones. The overseas destinations are Phuket, Male, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bangkok, Kuwait, and Dammam. After suspension of international operations, the number of daily flights has come down to 280 from 325, an airline official said. "GoAir has also initiated a short-term and temporary rotational leave without pay program that will not only help the company counter the short term reduction in capacity, but will also ensure that a cross section of our employees stay away from the workplace to ensure business continuity," the statement said.
Knowing that this would put a financial burden on the affected employees and having studied what companies have done in other countries to help guide our plans, this decision was not taken lightly, the airline said.
For now, the sources said the airline plans to keep as much as 35 per cent of its workforce on leave without pay for a month. This would include staff at overseas airports. There is also a proposal to give 20 per cent pay cut for staff in a staggered manner to help the airline sustain till normalcy in passenger traffic returns, as per the sources.
They also said that GoAir would soon take a call on expat pilots as most of them would not have work since services are being reduced. A GoAir spokesperson did not respond to queries related to pay cut and expat pilots. In addition to addressing short term financial and network requirements, airlines in India have petitioned the government for immediate support, as most other governments around the world have already provided to their similarly affected airlines, the statement said.
"We have also taken many immediate measures to make our business more efficient; measures that will help us create an even stronger airline in the long run. "GoAir remains on track to receive 12-15 aircraft each year through the end of 2025 in support of our planned growth," the statement noted.
In an updated statement, issued late in the evening, the airline said mentioned travel bans imposed by India and other countries. "Airlines across the world have taken drastic measures to handle this extra ordinary situation.
"Various reports have shown that world's leading airlines (United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Emirates Airline, British Airways, Lufthansa Airline, Cathay Pacific, Malaysian Airlines, Bangkok Airways et al) are reducing flight capacity between 50 to 90 per cent in April and May," GoAir said.
According to the statement, the airline has enhanced all of its cleaning procedures in the interest of customers' and employees' health and safety. "We have also tried to put our customers at ease by offering them a waiver on change fees so that they can be confident about booking their travel today while maintaining full flexibility in the future," it added.