Australian airline Qantas has suffered heavy losses and will cut staff. Credit: Qantas

An Australian government advisory to all citizens not to travel overseas has pretty much left Qantas and its low-fare subsidiary Jetstar in a similar quandary.

Qantas and Jetstar announced they will suspend all scheduled international flying as of late March, grounding more than 150 aircraft, AINonline reported.

Although it plans to retain 60% of its domestic flying, the company has decided to temporarily lay off two-thirds of its 30,000-strong workforce until at least the end of May, the report said.

The latest moves come just days after Qantas announced it would cut 90% of its international flying, the report said.

The company said it will ground more than 150 aircraft, including all of Qantas’s A380s, 747s, and 787-9s and all of Jetstar’s 787-8s, adding that it will maintain “as much as possible” essential domestic, regional, and freight connections, the report said.

Qantas plans to continue to use its full fleet of cargo aircraft and use some domestic passenger aircraft for freight-only flights to replace lost capacity from regularly scheduled services.

While the group is suspending all regularly scheduled Qantas and Jetstar international flights from Australia until at least end May, the company said it might continue to maintain “key links,” based on ongoing discussions with the federal government, the report said. 

Jetstar Asia (Singapore) will suspend all flights from March 23 to at least April 15, while Jetstar Japan and Jetstar Pacific (Vietnam) have suspended international flights and cut domestic flying, the report said.  

Meanwhile, senior management and the members of the board of directors will join the chairman and CEO in forgoing salaries for the rest of the fiscal year after initially agreeing to a 30% pay cut.

While laid-off employees will be able to draw on annual and long-service leave, the company will also introduce so-called support mechanisms such as leave at half pay and early access to long-service leave, the report said.

The plan will allow employees with low leave balances at the start of the stand down to access up to four weeks’ leave in advance of earning it, the report said.

“We’re in a strong financial position right now, but our wages bill is more than US$4 billion a year,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce. “With the huge drop in revenue we’re facing, we have to make difficult decisions to guarantee the future of the national carrier.

“The reality is we’ll have 150 aircraft on the ground and sadly there’s no work for most of our people … most of our people will be using various types of paid leave during this time, and we’ll have a number of support options in place. We’re also talking to our partners like Woolworths about temporary job opportunities for our people.”