Airline staff on edge about losing their jobs due to Covid-19 impact

01 Apr 2020 / 23:42 H.

PETALING JAYA: It is a job that literally gets you soaring above the clouds, but for many frontline workers in the airline sector, a hard landing is now on the horizon.

The fear of pay cuts or job losses is thick in the air.

A 27-year-old flight attendant for a local flag carrier, who only wishes to be known as Maya, probably summed it up succinctly for all her colleagues: “Yes, honestly, we are very worried that we will lose our jobs”.

Like many who are feeling the direct impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, they wake up each morning wondering if they will still have a job.

Airlines the world over are feeling the brunt of the impact caused by the pandemic that has spread across 198 countries and infected more than 470,000 people. As of yesterday, more than 21,500 people have lost their lives to the virus.

As a result of the pandemic, people have stopped flying, mostly out of fear of falling victim to the Covid-19 virus.

All major airlines around the world are already taking drastic measures to stay afloat.

Singapore Airlines, one of the world’s top carriers, has slashed 96% of capacity by grounding 138 of its fleet of 147 aircraft.

In a report by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation last week, it is estimated that by the end of May, most airlines in the world will be bankrupt.

For airline workers, the fear that they may not get to fly again is beginning to sink in.

Maya, who only started work in September last year, said she knows of many crew members of other airlines being “encouraged” to go on unpaid leave as their employers struggle to keep the flag flying.

“Everyone is affected. It’s particularly hard as most of us have commitments, including rents or car loans. Some, who are breadwinners for their families, are really in for it.”

She said many have no choice but to turn to part-time businesses to cover monthly expenses.

“But with the movement control order (MCO) in place, it is like a dead end,” she added.

A flight attendant for another domestic airline said everyone feared that the company could fold up.

“This is our only source of income. If passenger numbers continue to drop and flights are limited, it is certainly a huge concern for all in the aviation industry,” said the crew member, who wished to be known only by her first name, Ayush.

“I worry about this every day. I can’t think of what I’m going to do if I lose this job,.”

But at home, she has her three-month-old daughter to keep her motivated and to stay positive each day.

Another flight attendant complained that being on unpaid leave was a stressful experience.

“It almost feels like being unemployed,” she said.

“There are too many things running through my mind now. I just hope that everything will be back to normal soon,” she added.

Nonetheless, there are others in the sector who remain hopeful that their flag carriers will ride out the storm.

Syafiqah, 30, a crew member of Middle Eastern airline Emirates, said she believes that the company has taken all the necessary measures to cushion the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Syafiqah, who has served the airline for 10 years, said the staff have been assured that they would not lose their jobs.

She is now on unpaid leave, but sees it as an opportunity to spend more time with her family.

“I’ve had little opportunity to do that since I started this career,” she added.

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