Air Canada is laying off more than 5,000 flight attendants. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Thousands laid off as airlines struggle with COVID-19 cancellations, travel bans

Some airlines say they will hire back workers after the crisis subsides

Air Canada is laying off more than 5,000 flight attendants as the country’s largest airline cuts routes amid plunging demand.

The Montreal-based carrier is laying off about 3,600 employees, plus 1,549 flight attendants at its low-cost subsidiary Rouge, according to Wesley Lesosky, head of the Air Canada component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. However, Air Canada has a $7.3-billion cushion to fall back on — more than the most profitable U.S. carrier, Delta Air Lines.

The layoffs will take effect by April and affect roughly 60% of flight attendants. Air Canada says it will suspend most of its international and U.S. flights by March 31.The carrier says employees will be returned to active duty status once flights resume.

Transat AT Inc. says it has temporarily laid off about 70 per cent of its workforce in Canada, about 3,600 people.

Some of these layoffs are effective immediately, while others will take effect following advance notice of up to one month. The layoffs include all flight crew personnel.

WestJet Airlines Ltd. has halved its domestic capacity and cancelled all overseas and U.S. routes for 30 days. The carrier is shielded from stock market judgment after Onex Corp. acquired it in December and the company was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Airbus is cancelling a planned dividend payment and lining up 15 billion euros ($16 billion) in new credit to give the European aircraft giant more cash to weather the crisis. Airbus The plane maker is withdrawing the proposed 2019 dividend payment of 1.8 euros ($1.9) per share will save the company 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion). Airbus is also making pension savings and says it has significant liquidity to cope with the crisis. It had shut several plants last week to adapt them to safer health conditions.

READ MORE: North American stock markets start the trading week down, loonie falls

READ MORE: Feds launch ad campaign urging social distancing, hygiene during COVID-19 crisis


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