El Al Fires 600 in Corona Crisis

Empty departure hall at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday. (Yossi Zamir/ Flash90)

El Al Airlines fired 600 permanent workers on Wednesday, the latest in a series of measures necessitated by losses due to the coronavirus epidemic, which has crippled air travel to Europe and Asia.

The firings were part of a plan to lay off 1,000 employees, both permanent and temporary. It followed a decision for El Al executives to take a 20 percent pay cut starting March 1.

El Al CEO Gonen Usishkin blamed the company’s fiscal crisis on government restrictions, which have been more aggressive than in other countries.

He referred to Israel’s decisions, “which have not been taken by any other country in the world,” and which ” have an immediate effect on our flight schedule and ability to carry out our commercial plans… The decision to quarantine passengers returning from Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Macau, and recently also Italy, and the publication of an order by the Ministry of the Interior barring the entry into Israel of foreigners who had been in these countries, combined with the call by the Ministry of Health to Israelis to consider overseas travel in general, have resulted in cancellation of flights on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic decline in flight bookings.”

A meeting between representatives of the El Al labor union and company management on Wednesday broke up acrimoniously after just 5 minutes, according to media reports.