Go Airlines sends 90 pct of staff home without pay as India closes amid coronavirus

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Go Airlines India Ltd. has asked as many as 90 percent of its 5,500 employees to go on indefinite leave without pay, as a government ban on flights amid a coronavirus lockdown dries up cash flow for the budget airline, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The airline, the second biggest customer for Airbus SE in one of the fastest growing markets in the world, is checking with the government to see if it can continue to sell tickets for travel after the country’s nationwide lockdown ends on May 3, the people said. Late Saturday Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had tweeted advising against that. There’s been no clarity so far if flights, especially international, will be allowed even when the lockdown is lifted.

The airline will keep paying a small number of employees on payroll to restart operations when the government allows flights, the people said, asking not to be identified as the decision is not public.

A spokesman for GoAir, as the brand is known, didn’t immediately respond to phone calls seeking comments.

GoAir joins a slew of carriers across the world which have seen all revenue vanish swiftly, as travel bans all but stop air travel, forcing most to ground thousands of jets. South African Airways plans to lay off its entire workforce after failing to persuade the government to provide more financial aid, while Royal Jordanian Airline has enough cash to survive until the end of June and plans to ask the government for tax breaks.

The airline industry may surrender $314 billion in ticket sales to the coronavirus this year, 25 percent more than previously expected, because of longer-than-expected lockdowns and the increasing toll on the global economy, according to the International Air Transport Association. Most of the world’s airlines may go bankrupt by the end of May as they run out of cash, Sydney-based CAPA center for Aviation warned last month.

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