AirAsia expected to have another round of retrenchments — source

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KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 28): Low-cost airline AirAsia Bhd may again be laying off a few hundred employees as it seeks to survive in an industry hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis.

A source, who has access to information given by chief executive officer (CEO) Riad Asmat at a townhall session today, told Bernama that no details were announced but the affected staff would be informed latest within 72 hours.

“We are facing a very tough time. (In) the current state, we are unable to sustain the way we are. (It is) very challenging…not easy. (We are) trying to sustain the business (while at the same time) trying to sustain everyone.

“We are doing our best to survive to maintain as many of you (as possible) with the aircraft we utilise…We are very careful of the details (in making the decision) today. Unfortunately, (we've decided) to let go some of you,” Riad was quoted as saying by the source, who requested anonymity.

According to the source, AirAsia's management team would give the affected staff the necessary assistance such as medical benefits, flight coupon redemption until end of the year, and counselling.

Citing Riad, the source said retrenched staff would be rehired once the airline group had weathered this storm successfully.

“For those affected, I am sorry. You have to stay strong. We will support you in any manner and get you through this. It is not something I take pride in, but as CEO of the company, I take full responsibility and accountability.

“We tried our best. The company needs to survive….It’s all about survivability now,” Riad was quoted as saying, indicating that the downsizing would be completed by end of this month.

There would be no pay cut for those who stay, the source said.

According to the source, Riad said the airline group had reached out to the government but had not received any feedback.

“We are surviving on our own. It’s not something new. We are survivors. We have yet to receive any outright assistance,” the CEO was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, in a separate session, AirAsia X Bhd (AAX) CEO Benyamin Ismail announced the long-haul carrier was looking at a wider retrenchment exercise, involving employees from the technical side to cabin crew.

It would be done on a “last in, first out” basis, he was quoted as saying, signalling that hundreds would be affected and the effective last day would be end of October.

The source said some employees would be offered unpaid leave, which was likely to be for a six-month period or until the situation improved.

“I don’t know when we will be flying. We thought it is for the best to retrench and we hope we give certainty to the people,” Benyamin was quoted as saying.

The source said AAX would review the workforce’s basic salary across the board.

In early June, AirAsia cut over 250 of its manpower in light of Covid-19.