‘Personnel overhang’: All the job cuts each airline has announced so far

June 11, 2020, 6:00 PM UTC

Germany’s Lufthansa Group—which also owns major airlines in Austria, Switzerland, and Belgium—has just announced up to 22,000 job cuts.

By Fortune’s calculation, the news takes the total number of announced major-airline job cuts up to around 70,000—and more will surely come. Taking into account looming cuts at suppliers such as Boeing, the coronavirus pandemic now seems set to claim many more than 100,000 jobs in the sector. One caveat: For the U.S. carriers on this list, the cuts cannot take place before the end of September, due to the terms of the airlines’ federal coronavirus payroll support deals.

Lufthansa’s move comes weeks after the group agreed to a $9.8 billion bailout with the German government that will see the government take a 20% stake in the company—shareholders and the European Commission still need to sign off on this. The Austrian government has also given the carrier group $510 million, and the Swiss government has given it $1.35 billion in loan guarantees.

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said last week that “far-reaching restructuring measures” and asset sales would be needed to repay the German bailout.

And the first wave is here.

“Without a significant reduction in personnel costs during the crisis, we will miss the opportunity of a better restart from the crisis and risk that the Lufthansa Group will emerge considerably weakened after it,” said Lufthansa human resources chief Michael Niggemann in a statement. “In addition, personnel overhang is likely to become even larger, so that a reduction of personnel overhang by implementing unilateral measures would be inevitable. We want to avoid this scenario.”

It is two months since Lufthansa said it would be cutting the size of its 763-strong fleet by around a tenth—it now expects the fleet to come out of the crisis having shrunk by around 100 planes. Even before the pandemic, the legacy carrier group was looking to consolidate its operations to stay competitive; COVID-19’s extreme impact on the sector just “accelerated” those plans, the company claimed in April.

Lufthansa Group employs over 135,000 people, half in Germany—where half the cuts will take place, many in administration and the group’s third-party services business.

Lufthansa’s looming headcount reduction (which is still the subject of negotiations with unions) is the largest announced so far in the current aviation crisis. But many carriers are being forced, or taking the opportunity, to downsize—and pretty much everyone expects the sector to take several years to recover.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most significant announcements of cuts made by carriers in the past couple of months. Not included are cuts at their suppliers, such as Boeing (nearly 13,000 jobs), Airbus (reportedly up to 10,000) and engine-maker Rolls-Royce (9,000), not to mention a host of smaller firms. In the U.K. alone, researchers are forecasting the loss of 124,000 jobs in the sector unless the British government extends additional help to aviation industry workers.

British Airways

BA said at the end of April that it would cut up to 12,000 jobs—as the IAG subsidiary employs around 42,000 people, that’s a higher proportion than Lufthansa is planning to shed, albeit a smaller overall number.

Emirates Group

The Emirates Group might end up with the heftiest cuts of all, as Bloomberg has reported a likely reduction in the order of 30,000. However, the Dubai flag carrier, which employs around 105,000 people around the world, has been vague about totals. So far, Emirates has reportedly laid off more than 7,200 cabin crew, pilots, and engineers.

American Airlines

American, which has almost 129,000 employees, said late May that it would be cutting roughly 30% of its management and support services. That means roughly 5,000 jobs will go, though the cuts cannot take place before the end of September because of the airlines’ federal bailout stipulations. 


Scandinavian Airlines, the joint flag carrier for Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, said late April that it could cut up to 5,000 jobs, or almost half its workforce.

Norwegian Air

SAS rival Norwegian saw four of its Swedish and Danish subsidiaries file for bankruptcy in late April. It also ended a range of staffing contracts in the U.S. and Europe. Altogether, 4,700 jobs are at risk.


The British low-cost airline EasyJet is cutting around 4,500 jobs, or 30% of its workforce—and it’s warning of even more if the British government maintains two-week-quarantine requirement for people arriving in the U.K.

United Airlines

A report in early May, based on an internal memo, suggested United was planning to lay off 30% of its managerial and administrative workforce—that would mean around 3,500 lost jobs. However, new CEO Scott Kirby subsequently said he wants to avoid the measure if possible.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic said in early May that 3,150 jobs would be cut, so the airline could “return to profitability in 2021.”


EasyJet competitor Ryanair (also a vocal opponent of the U.K.’s quarantine requirements) said at the start of May that it would shed around 3,000 jobs, or 15% of its workforce.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines, which employs around 23,000 people, said Wednesday that it will shed up to 3,000 jobs.

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia filed for bankruptcy protection in late April. Having met with bidders, unions now fear as many as 2,000 jobs could be cut.