Swissport, the aviation services company owned by the struggling Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, has eliminated 10,000 jobs in the months since the coronavirus began laying waste to the aviation industry.
The layoffs amount to about 15 percent of the company’s global workforce. About 55 percent were in the United States and Canada, and 35 percent were in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the company. Another 40,000 employees have been furloughed or are on unpaid leave, giving the company an active workforce of just 15,000.
Swissport, which handles cargo and ground services, has taken a hit as the pandemic closes down airports and pushes airlines towards bankruptcy. The collapse of Virgin Australia this week served as another blow, prompting Swissport to seek government aid for its operation in Australia.
Swissport spokesman Christoph Meier said Virgin Australia serves as a “blueprint of what can be set in motion by uncontained collapses of key industry players.”
Earlier this year HNA, which owns a 20 percent stake in the Australian airline, became one of the first corporate victims of the coronavirus when it was taken over by the provincial government of Hainan, where the company is based. HNA was already struggling after amassing a huge debt load during a global buying spree.
Swissport has managed to keep layoffs in Switzerland “very low” with a double-digit figure in Zurich, where cuts were also made this week, Meier said. About 80 percent of staff in the head office are working reduced hours under Switzerland’s short-time work program, which pays companies to keep employees on the payroll during tough times.
“Those concerned had started recently and were still on temporary employment,” Meier said in an email Friday. “Instead of being made permanent, they were let go due to the circumstances.”
By contrast, Swissport says business has picked up at airports that focus on freight, including Basel’s EuroAirport and Liège Airport in Belgium.