INTERNATIONAL NEWS - Around 10,000 employees at Delta Air Lines have already taken voluntary unpaid leave, the company said Wednesday, as global carriers faces an ever-worsening revenue outlook due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In a message to employees, Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian said the company would slash its capacity by 70 percent following an expected $2 billion fall in demand in March compared with last year.
Airlines have been among the hardest-hit sectors amid a gradual freezing of travel and other economic activity as health officials urge social distancing to halt the spread of the virus.
In the latest measure of the damage, S&P Global Ratings cut Southwest Airlines' credit grade late Wednesday, citing the hit from plunging ticket sales due to the virus.
Bastian referred to ongoing discussions with Washington policymakers on bailout measures as he said the company was reducing its fleet size by "at least half" and parking more than 600 aircraft.
"Voluntary leaves are one of the best and most immediate ways you can help as we strive to protect jobs and pay," Bastian said, noting that while workers on leave forego their salary but keep benefits such as health insurance.
"I want to thank each of the roughly 10,000 Delta people who have already volunteered and I urge everyone, especially our merit employees, to seriously consider whether a temporary leave makes sense for you and your family right now.."
Bastian said he hopes to avoid the layoffs other companies have been forced to impose.
"In this unpredictable environment we can't take any options off the table, but any steps that would affect your jobs or pay rates would be the absolute last thing we would do, and only if necessary to secure Delta's long-term future."