Hard-hit by the global clampdown on travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, Belgium’s Brussels Airlines said Tuesday it will cut a quarter of its workforce as part of a cost-cutting plan, a move that has enraged politicians.
The Lufthansa subsidiary employs 4,000 people and has like many airlines suspended flights as a result of the pandemic.
The carrier, which also suffered from the bankruptcy of travel operator Thomas Cook last year, said it plans to reduce its fleet from 54 to 38 aircraft as part of the restructuring.
“The year 2020 will be a disaster,” said Chief Executive Dieter Vranckx.
Brussels Airlines said it is losing one million euros ($1.1 million) a day because of revenue losses, aircraft leasing and maintenance costs. To weather the crisis, it has asked the government for support, which could come as a bridge loan of 290 million euros ($314 million).
Before a meeting with unions, Finance Minister Alexander De Croo acknowledged that negotiations with Lufthansa were difficult. Meanwhile, several political parties expressed support for Brussels Airlines employees and blamed Lufthansa for soliciting financial support while announcing cuts.
“The airliner is requesting more than 300 million euros from the Belgian State. In this context, Lufthansa’s attitude is unacceptable,” said Georges-Louis Bouchez, the president of Prime minister Sophie Wilmes’ MR party. “This announcement is therefore likely to be called into question if the state was to intervene.”
Brussels Airlines said its plan was necessary, urging Lufthansa and the Belgian government to continue discussions.
“The Belgian home carrier hopes for a positive outcome of the talks with the Belgian authorities on the financial support that is needed to overcome the consequences of this unprecedented crisis, while it seeks for the assistance of Lufthansa for the restructuring costs,” the company said.
Brussels Airlines said it is confident it will “grow again in a profitable way” once the pandemic will be over but did not envisage a return to normal before 2023.
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