Coronavirus: Air India to suspend flights to Europe, UK from March 19

GoAir suspends international operations, offers leave without pay on rotational basis for staff

Coronavirus: Air India to suspend flights to Europe, UK from March 19

File photo

Mumbai, March 17

Air India and GoAir both announced on Tuesday that they were suspending some international flights as India’s active coronavirus cases rose to 137.

As the world grappled with the virus whose death count now stands well over 7,000 globally, Air India said it was temporarily suspending e-services to Europe and the UK from March 19.

The decision to suspend air services to the UK and the European Union member countries was taken in the wake of travel and visa restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak, Air India said in a tweet.

The airline flies to London and Brimingham in the UK, and Frankfurt, Milan, Rome, Madrid, Vienna, Stockholm and Copenhagen in Europe.

Services to Milan, Rome and Madrid was temporarily suspended earlier.

“All pax travelling to UK & Europe, may kindly note that in view of DGCA instructions regarding travel and visa restrictions related to #COVID2019, all flights to/ from UK & Europe will operate only till March 18, 2020 & will remain suspended from 19th to 31st March, 2020, “ Air India said in a tweet.

Europe has now become the epicenter of the virus that claimed over 2,000 lives in China before it spread to the world. Infections in Italy, the country that has the second highest number of cases outside of China, saw a jump to 27,980. With 2,158 deaths, Italy now accounts for well over a quarter of the global death toll.

Spain, now the fourth-most infected country, saw infections rise on Tuesday by more than 2,000 in one day to 11,178 and virus-related deaths jump by almost 200 to 491. Only China, Italy and Iran had more infections.

GoAir offers leave without pay on rotational basis for staff

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.

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. PTI


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