KLM to slash up to 2,000 jobs because of virus

Dutch national airline KLM said Friday it will cut up to 2,000 jobs as it battled the impact of the new coronavirus outbreak, and announced other cost-cutting measures.

Chief executive Pieter Elbers said KLM -- which has around 33,000 employees -- will also ask personnel to work shortened hours, while grounding its fleet of six Boeing 747s from April 1.

"In the coming months we'll reduce 1,500 to 2,000 jobs to mean that not only in the coming weeks, but in the coming months we will have fewer colleagues," Elbers said in a video message posted on KLM's website.

The airline's top official said the job cuts mainly included part-time workers, those destined for retirement and natural attrition.

"We believe this is adequate to ensure that there are no other forced retrenchments," Elbers said.

The Dutch carrier, which merged with Air France in 2004, predicted that flight numbers would drop by 20 percent in March and 30 percent in April as the airline suspended flights to China and Italy as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Air-France KLM warned Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak will hit its business harder in the coming months after February passenger numbers fell by 0.5 percent.

Last month, Air France-KLM put the coronavirus cost to the airline at 150-200 million euros up to April.

"A lot has happened in the last five days," Elbers said as the number of cases globally climbed to 140,720 with 5,347 deaths across 124 countries and territories.

jhe/dk/ach