El Al, the privately owned flag carrier airline of Israel has terminated the training courses of 60 pilots and 100 members of cabin crew, telling the new hires there are no longer jobs waiting for them at the carrier. It comes as the airline announced plans to axe as many as 1,000 of its 6,300 employees in a desperate bid to save money.
The airline issued a profit warning last week, notifying the Tel Aviv stock exchange that it could lose as much as $70 million from the fallout of the COVID-19 novel Coronavirus outbreak. But that figure was before El Al was forced to cancel flights to Italy and further route adjustments could follow as the outbreak spreads.
El Al had already cancelled flights to mainland China, Hong Kong and Thailand because of the Coronavirus outbreak.
“We are now in a crisis that we have never experienced before,” said Shlomo Ben Yitzhak, head of the El Al workers committee at a rally held in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
In a statement, El Al confirmed it would be laying off the trainee pilots and cabin crew, telling local media:
“In pursuance of the consequences of the coronavirus crisis facing the company, as part of the process of adapting its staff to the company’s activity, cadets in El Al’s pilots, air steward, and ground steward courses whose training has not yet been completed were notified that their training had been terminated, and that they would not be hired as El Al employees at this stage.“
“The company is also making adjustments, including not beginning air and ground steward courses that were scheduled to open soon. We emphasize that no new employees are being hired until further notice,” the statement continued.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the government would once again look at how it could step in to help the airline and prevent its collapse. According to an Israeli business publication, the airline has suggested the government could offer immediate assistance by not collecting $100 million in taxes that it pays each year.
El Al’s operating costs are substantially higher than many other airlines flying to Tel Aviv because of restrictions placed on it by the Israeli government or other States. The airline cannot fly through Saudi air space, must hire security officers to check passengers at its stations around the world and is unable to fly to Turkey despite rivals flying between the two countries.
Workers have urged passengers to remember a famous company slogan: “It’s not just an airline, It’s Israel.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.