Flight Centre to stand down nearly 4000 staff as part of global rout

Flight Centre will temporarily stand down 3800 Australian workers as the travel company looks to battle through the global coronavirus outbreak.

The thousands of Australian staff are among 6000 sales and support roles globally that will go temporarily or permanently.

The travel company will also close more than 200 stores, more than double previously announced a few weeks ago.  That equates to 30 per cent of its 689 stores in Australia.

Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner said the company may still have to take further action to cut costs in the current trading conditions.

“We have obviously been badly affected by the travel shutdown, even domestically to a large extent,” he told 9News.

“It’s inevitable that we have to save some costs. So that’s been a big priority to make sure we can get our costs down in the short term, without losing our people, because we believe we will need them back in the next few months.

“Unfortunately, that means you have had to stand a number of staff members down.”

Turner said he cannot see air travel resuming until June at the earliest.

“We think it will start getting back to normal during the second half of this calendar year, but we will certainly be looking at maybe needing some more stand downs, not just in Australia but in the 23 countries that we operate,” he said.

Senior executives and board members were also taking a 50 per cent pay cut and halting bonuses.

“We are dealing with unprecedented restrictions and extraordinary circumstances that are having a significant impact on our customers, people, suppliers and all other stakeholders,” Turner said in an earlier statement.

“As a result we have been forced to make extremely difficult decisions, including temporarily standing down some of our people.

“We aim to bring them back to work as soon as restrictions are lifted and as demand starts to increase.”

Flight Centre’s woes mirror the wider aviation sector, with both Qantas and Virgin Australia shedding the majority of its workforce as they are forced to ground their planes.

In the latest round of job cuts, Virgin Australia announced it will make all pilots at its budget arm Tigerair redundant as part of a round of layoffs that will see more than 1000 workers lose their jobs..

Yesterday the airline stood down 8000 of its 10,000 workers as it slashed domestic flight capacity by 90 per cent.

Qantas has stood down 20,000 of its 30,000 employees.