El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin has asked the company’s human resources department to prepare to let go 1,000 of the company’s 6,300 employees, citing financial losses due to the global coronavirus outbreak, according to Israeli media reports.
El Al had reported to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that the epidemic could result in $70 million in lost revenue from January to April, according to a report by the Israeli business daily Globes on Thursday. This estimate was made before El Al was forced on Friday to stop flights to Italy for two weeks. Flights to Bangkok are being canceled until the end of March starting on Monday, while the launch of the carrier’s new flight to Tokyo is being delayed until April, the report said.
The global travel industry is being hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with German carrier Lufthansa announcing that it is cutting its short-haul flights by up to 25 percent as demand drops, according to a report in the Financial Times on Friday. British Airways parent company IAG said that the situation meant that it could not provide a profit outlook for 2020.
Many companies are deciding to cancel scheduled events, and the Swiss government has banned all events expected to be attended by over 1,000 people, including the Geneva Motor Show, the report said.
As was previously reported by the Jewish Voice several weeks ago, the Chief Executive Officer of El Al said that he sees “difficult days ahead.” But is it the Israeli airline that self that is making those days difficult?
Usishkin has also said that “It is possible that we will be required to take dramatic steps and make painful decisions.” Recent situations, he added have proven to be “a test for countries around the world, including Israel, the aviation sector and El Al.”
He added, “I assure you that we will do everything we can to successfully get through these days, and we will do so responsibly, transparently and without haste… We are in the midst of a global event, and it is too soon to predict the impact… Safety and security will always be our top priority.”
But many believe it is the airline itself that is failing its test.
Indeed, a large number of flights both to and from Beijing and Hong Kong had to be canceled, and flights to Bangkok have been cut back by 50% over the past couple of weeks. To make matters worse, large numbers of tourists and other travelers have canceled their plans out of fear of being exposed to the virus.