Business

No salary cuts for SriLankan Airlines’ staff despite flight restrictions

SriLankan Airlines Ltd. Chairman Ashok Pathirage

Despite airlines around the world temporarily reducing salaries of employees to mitigate losses, national carrier SriLankan Airlines has no plans to resort to any pay cuts, The Sunday Morning Business learns.
Currently, all passenger flights into Sri Lanka have been postponed indefinitely with effect from 17 March, with only departure flights being operational since last Sunday (22), in a measure adopted to contain the spread of Covid-19 within the country.

When contacted for confirmation, SriLankan Airlines Ltd. Chairman Ashok Pathirage stated that at the moment, there are no plans to reduce salaries of SriLankan employees.

“We still haven’t had any discussions on this matter. We are paying salaries without any cuts,” Pathirage noted.

However, Pathirage and the Board of Directors of the national carrier do not draw a salary from SriLankan Airlines and work in a voluntary capacity.

When asked whether SriLankan Airlines would opt for a different measure to cope with the inevitable financial impact due to the loss of flights, Pathirage said it was premature to comment.

Last Sunday (22), Dubai’s state-owned airline Emirates decided to suspend most of its 159 passenger flights, choosing to continue flying to only 13 destinations and that too only due to requests from governments to facilitate the repatriation of travellers. Along with this, Emirates announced that basic salaries of a majority of its employees will be cut by between 25-50% for the next three months.

Meanwhile, basic salaries of British Airways pilots are to be slashed by 50% for April and May, split over three months, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Financial Times. IndiGo, an Indian low-cost airline, is also set to implement salary cuts of up to 25% for its employees due to restricted air travel driven by the pandemic.

Moreover, US’ Delta Airlines’ employees will be offered short-term unpaid leave and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ed Bastian said he would stop taking a salary.

The management of Scandinavian Airlines, the flag carrier of Denmark, had agreed to reduce their own salaries by 20% while continuing to work full time. Furthermore, the airline has invited unions to discuss a 20% work and pay cut for all employees as it fights to mitigate the effects of decreased demand.

Kenya Airways’ top managers have taken a pay cut of up to 35% with some of the employees staring at a 75% reduction.

SriLankan has been a loss-making airline for over 10 years. The airline recorded a loss of Rs. 40 billion in the financial year (FY) 2017/18, the highest annual loss since Emirates’ departure from its management in 2008.

During a Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) meeting last month, Pathirage disclosed that SriLankan is estimated to lose about $ 130 million by March 2020. He also added that if everything goes well and no external issues such as Covid-19 disrupts the airline’s operations, they were aiming at bringing the losses down to about $ 30 million next year. SriLankan Airlines’ monthly Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) bill alone is about $ 14 million with only $ 6 million out of it being paid monthly at present.

Based on the annual accounts from March 2017 up to December 2017 of FY 2017/18, the total remuneration cost of senior managers, managers, and executives constitutes 2.36% of the total cost. The total remuneration cost of cabin crew and flight crew members constitute 2.84% and 3.75% of the total cost of the airline, respectively.

However, he added that the new management under his leadership aims to make the airline profitable within the next two to three years.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts a loss of $ 29.3 billion in revenue for the global aviation sector in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The revenue loss represents a 4.7% hit to global demand, the IATA said in a statement on 19 March.

IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac stressed the reduction in global air traffic of 4.7%, the first overall decline in demand since the global financial crisis of 2008/09. Lower fuel costs will help offset some of the lost revenue, Juniac noted.