Thousands of jobs insecure at Spanish airlines

by Lorraine Williamson
Spanish airlines
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MADRID – Spanish airlines have said that the sector’s activity is still far from pre-coronavirus levels. This means that if a new agreement is not reached with the government, the work of thousands of employees will be insecure.  

The high season months have not led to a full recovery, and the outlook for the autumn is also uncertain. This summer, only 65% of pre-pandemic flights were operated with only 60% of the number of passengers remaining from that period. 

Difficult recovery for transatlantic flights 

The recovery of activities this summer was not the same for all Spanish airlines. For example, this was more favourable for the airlines with mainly short and medium-haul flights (within Europe) than for the airlines with mainly transatlantic flights. For Iberia and Air Europa, which operate many flights to Latin America, the uncertainty is greater than for airlines such as Ryanair, which mainly connect European cities. 

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Extension ERTE’s until Easter 

Despite the fact that the vaccination campaign has been beneficial to the recovery in the aviation sector, only 30% of the number of passengers from the same period in 2019 were carried this year. It is therefore crucial for airlines to be able to continue the temporary unemployment schemes ERTE for longer. The sector has requested an extension until the Holy Week before Easter (Semana Santa). This is when the next peak in activity is expected. 

Plan B 

If no agreement is reached on an extension this week, Spanish airlines will be forced to move to plan B. And this means the workforce will have to be permanently adjusted to the expected economic activity in the short term. 

Last week, Vueling, Iberia, and Globalia announced that they want to make an ERTE scheme for part of the workforce. These three companies alone have 18,000 employees; 5,000 at Iberia, 9,000 at Globalia, and another 4,000 at Vueling. It is not inconceivable that Ryanair and Easyjet will also follow suit. Even in the month of August, 5,249 employees from the aviation sector were still at home with an ERTE scheme. 

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