Coronavirus: Two-thirds of Qantas, Jetstar staff 'stood down' as international flights halted

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 31:  A Qantas aeroplane takes off at Melbourne Airport on October 31, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. Qantas flights are expected to return to the skies at 2:00pm today, after a decision by Fair Work Australia to terminate the industrial action that grounded the airline from Saturday.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

Qantas and Jetstar will temporarily stand down 20,000 staff as the coronavirus pandemic continues to play havoc with the air travel industry.

The Qantas Group, the Australian company that owns both airlines, has made the decision to suspend two-thirds of jobs for now "to preserve as many jobs as possible longer term".

The decision comes as Qantas suspends scheduled international flights from late March until at least the end of May, as the Australian government recommends against all overseas travel.

Qantas and Jetstar employ about 30,000 people, meaning 20,000 people will be without a job in this period.

The airlines will continue their regularly scheduled international routes until the end of March, in order to assist with repatriation.

Qantas has also reduced flights on domestic routes by 60 percent.

During the stand-down period, employees will be able to draw upon their annual and long-service leave. Employees with low leave balances will be able to access up to four weeks' leave in advance of earning it.

'A devastating impact': What the Qantas CEO had to say

“The efforts to contain the spread of Coronavirus have led to a huge drop in travel demand, the likes of which we have never seen before. This is having a devastating impact on all airlines.

“We’re in a strong financial position right now, but our wages bill is more than $4 billion a year. With the huge drop in revenue we’re facing, we have to make difficult decisions to guarantee the future of the national carrier.

“The reality is we’ll have 150 aircraft on the ground and sadly there’s no work for most of our people. Rather than lose these highly skilled employees who we’ll need when this crisis passes, we are instead standing down two-thirds of our 30,000 employees until at least the end of May.

“This is a very hard set of circumstances for our people, as it is for lots of parts of the community right now.

“No airline in the world is immune to this, with the world’s leading carriers making deep cuts to flying schedules and jobs. Our strong balance sheet means we’ve entered this crisis in better shape than most and we’re taking action to make sure we can ride this out.

“Since this crisis started, there has been overwhelming support from our customers. That gives me even more confidence that we’ll get through this."