Korean Air Furloughs 70% Of Staff As Capacity Plummets

Korean Air is putting most of its workforce on leave as it battles the cost of COVID-19.
Credit: Korean Air via Twitter

Korean Air is putting about 70% of its South Korea-based workforce on leave for up to six months to match the heavily reduced scale of its operations.

The leave period will begin on April 16. The amount of leave will vary according to the employee’s role and the workload of their division, the carrier said. The maximum furlough period will be six months.

Generally, all except essential staff will be sent on leave. They will be paid a “reduced percentage” of their normal wages, Korean Air said.

The carrier has had to reduce international capacity by 90% and domestic capacity by 60% because of the COVID-19 crisis. More than 90% of Korean Air’s 144 passenger aircraft have been grounded.

South Korea’s government has already provided an airline support package, mainly comprising fee relief and deferrals. The government has also announced KRW300 billion ($246 million) in direct financial aid to LCCs.

Airlines in South Korea—including Korean Air—are seeking additional government support, including the expansion of direct aid to full-service carriers, similar to what the LCCs received. 

South Korean airlines are also asking for government loan guarantees and support for airline bond issuances as the liquidity crunch is preventing carriers from issuing their own bonds.

Adrian Schofield

Adrian is a senior air transport editor for Aviation Week, based in New Zealand. He covers commercial aviation in the Asia-Pacific region.