Covid-19 crunch: Vietnam Airlines flight attendants choose unpaid leave option

By Thi Ha   March 19, 2020 | 04:53 pm PT
Covid-19 crunch: Vietnam Airlines flight attendants choose unpaid leave option
Medical staff sanitize a Vietnam Airlines aircraft at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi on February 4, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
As it struggles with the Covid-19 fallout, 1,400 Vietnam Airlines flight attendants, half the carrier’s total, have asked to take unpaid leave.

National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, reeling with falling revenues as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that has forced it to suspend or cancel many flights, has to cut its personnel to curb costs. 

So far, it has suspended all flights to China and South Korea, two countries hit hardest by the pandemic, and halted all flights to and from France and Malaysia starting Wednesday.

Vietnam Airlines is set to suspend all international flights, starting March 21, until the end of April as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens.

Phan Ngoc Linh, head of the Vietnam Airlines cabin crew division, said that they have offered several options to the cabin crew, including taking unpaid leave from one to three months to take care of their family or taking at least one week of unpaid leave each month.

Half the carrier’s flight attendants have chosen to stay at home without pay from March to May.

"This is only the number of staff taking a temporary break and the company will not dismiss anyone at this difficult time," Linh said.

Some flight attendants will continue working full-time, but have voluntarily forgone their basic pay, which accounts to about one fourth of their income, or VND7-8 million ($302-345) .

The carrier has also cut the salaries of senior managers by 40 percent this year. Mid-level managers’ salaries have been reduced by 20- 30 percent, said CEO Duong Tri Thanh.

Vu Kim Cuc, the carrier’s chief flight attendant, said that her salary has reduced by 20 percent, but she was still happy. "In such a situation, if there is a 30 percent or even 50 percent salary reduction, I am still willing to accompany the airline I have been part of for years," she said.

Vietnamese carriers could lose more than VND30 trillion ($1.3 billion) in revenues this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Transport Ministry has estimated. 

Vietnam Airlines has estimated that the number of passengers it carries could decline by 2.5 million this year, leading to a revenue fall of VND12 trillion ($519 million).

Vietnam has confirmed 75 Covid-19 infections so far, 16 of whom have been discharged after recovery.

The pandemic has spread to 178 countries and territories, claiming more than 10,000 lives.

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