El Al axes employees and flight routes as coronavirus hits tourism

March 5, 2020 by Benjamin Brown - TPS
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Israeli national airline El Al has announced it will be forced to dismiss employees, slash senior salaries and cancel flight routes amid the global outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (COVD-19).

El Al’s plane taking off from Ben Gurion Airport in central Israel. Lod, Nov 7, 2018. Photo by Kobi Richter/TPS

The tourism industry around the world has taken a beating amid fears of the virus spreading, with travellers shunning certain destinations and residents of some Corona-stricken countries being hit with entry bans. The Israeli Ministry of Health has urged Israelis not to travel abroad, likely increasing El Al’s woes.

The airline announced it would not be taking on 160 incoming employees and had additionally frozen the employment of new members of staff. Around 1,000 employees – roughly a sixth of El Al’s workforce – risk being fired, the airline stated.

Additionally, El Al’s senior staff salaries have been cut by 20 per cent, a decision retroactively taking effect on March 1st.

Israeli media have speculated that the announcement regarding staff termination may be a tactical ploy to better the airline’s position in negotiations with labour unions and a possible government bailout.

El Al suspended flights to Italy last week after a major Coronavirus outbreak in the north of the country. Additional lines axed include connections to Brussels, Budapest, Frankfurt, and Vienna. These routes were not, however, cancelled due to health concerns but over low demand, the airline stated.

After the air carrier reduced flights to Cyprus, additional cancellations are expected in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the Israeli airline has announced it has postponed the opening of its hyped-up route to Tokyo until April.

Amid efforts to contain the spread of the virus, close to 2,000 foreigners have been denied entry to Israel, TPS has learned.

Another three Israelis were diagnosed with Coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infected patients in Israel to 15.

Patients number 13 and 14 were at a toy store where the manager, who recently returned from Italy where he contracted the virus, infected others.

Patient number 15 has recently returned from Italy, which is combating a widespread infection. He was at home in quarantine when he became ill.

All the Israeli patients are in light condition and are in quarantine at a special compound at the Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv. Two have recovered and returned home.

The cases of Corona that have been recorded in Israel are mostly of Israelis returning from the east or Italy, but there has yet to be a widespread outbreak in the country.

At least 93,200 cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide, including at least 3,200 deaths. Some 51,100 have recovered.

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