Fiji Airways cuts staff so it can continue operating

The carrier has extended the suspension of international flights to the end of June.

Fiji Airways has decided to lay off half of its employees and seek additional financing to improve its prospects of surviving the COVID-19 crisis.

The continued suspension of international flights “means that we simply do not have work for a large segment of our workforce now, and for the foreseeable future,” said Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljoen. The cuts will enable the carrier to reduce cashflow and preserve the jobs it needs to remain viable. 

The airline will terminate 51%,  or 758, of its workers. This will include all 79 of the expatriate pilots at the airline. Eight expatriate executives will be laid off, leaving five expatriate executives at the carrier, including Viljoen. The six Fijian senior executives will also remain, and they will now “constitute the majority of the leadership team,” the airline said.

Most of the workforce has already agreed to a temporary 30-35% pay cut, and all those that remain will take a permanent cut of 20% from June 1.

Fiji Airways said it is “negotiating with its lenders and aircraft lessors for loan and lease payment deferrals,” in addition to arranging debt financing from a range of institutions. The Fijian government has agreed to provide sovereign guarantees to support these initiatives, which will raise about FJD450 million ($201 million). 

The carrier has extended the suspension of international flights until the end of June and is “in the process of reducing scheduled flights for July and August.” However, it is operating dedicated freighter services to key markets in Australasia, the U.S. and Hong Kong.

Photo credit: Fiji Airways