|30 April, 2020

Kuwait's Jazeera Airways lays off over a third of staff, not seeking state aid - chairman

Kuwait halted all commercial flights on March 13

Jazeera Airways aircraft at Kuwait International Airport.

Jazeera Airways aircraft at Kuwait International Airport.

Jazeera Airways / Handout via Thomson Reuters Zawya

KUWAIT- Kuwait's Jazeera Airways has laid off over a third of its staff and can dip into its cash reserves to get through the coronavirus crisis, its chairman said.

Several governments around the world are supporting airlines hammered by the pandemic that has virtually halted international travel.

Kuwait halted all commercial flights on March 13 as the Gulf Arab state rolled out restrictions to control the spread of the virus that has now infected 3,740 people and killed 24 there.

Jazeera, one of the region's few listed airlines, has laid off 320 employees, including cabin crew, ground staff and support staff, or 37% of its workforce.

"We kept only the sufficient number to run the current situation," Marwan Boodai told Reuters by phone.

"We hope that there will be an opportunity to re-employ them again in the coming months and we hope they will return."

Boodai cautioned the airline could report a loss for this year but said it was able to draw on its 30 million dinars ($97 million) of cash reserves for up to the next 27 months if needed. It has not sought state aid, he said, and executive staff have voluntarily taken a 50% pay cut.

The airline has been generating some revenue operating government flights for Kuwaiti citizens returning from abroad.

Boodai said he expected regional airports to start reopening from July though did not expect lift to return to normal for six months to a year.

($1 = 0.3090 Kuwaiti dinars)

(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy, writing by Alexander Cornwell;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle) ((Alexander.Cornwell@thomsonreuters.com;))