Ethiopian Airlines Suspends Flights, Furloughs Workers

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines has suspended passenger flights to more than 80 destinations and started to furlough workers as the coronavirus disrupts global travel. A Nigerian port health official, right, uses a thermometer to screen Ethiopian Airlines cabin crews for COVID-19 virus, upon arrival at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, March 4, 2020. Image: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba

Ethiopian Airlines has suspended passenger flights to more than 80 destinations and started to furlough workers as the global travel industry struggles with the new reality of a virus-stricken world.

When operating at full capacity, Ethiopian Airlines flies to 106 international and 23 domestic destinations.

Africa’s largest carrier, Ethiopian Airlines was still operating 75 percent of its flights at the end of March. The coronavirus crisis has forced it to discontinue flights to more than 60 percent of its destinations, TheVoice reports.

The government-run airline says that it has lost around $550 million in revenue due to the coronavirus, according to Borkena.

In an effort to offset further losses, the state-owned carrier announced that it would increase cargo flights but that did not stop it from laying off thousands of contract and temporary workers and furloughing others. The airline’s CEO Tewelde Gebremariam says that no permanent employees have been laid off.

The exact number of furloughed workers has not been announced but Ethiopian Airlines employs around 8,000 workers.

These furloughed workers will receive no pay for three months and possibly longer depending on the evolution and continued impact on the travel industry from COVID-19, Quartz reports.

Many of the world’s airlines could be bankrupt by May because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to aviation consultancy Capa.

U.S. carriers including United Airlines and American Airways require a $58-billion industry bailout from the federal government to stay afloat.

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An Ethiopian Airlines trade union representing the 8,000 workers has opposed the decision to furlough workers, arguing that these actions are “inconsiderate of the existing situation and violates worker’s rights.”