SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) -- Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc., South Korea's two biggest carriers, said Thursday their foreign pilots will take an extended unpaid leave amid the new coronavirus outbreak.
In March, Korean Air offered a voluntary leave program to its employees as the COVID-19 pandemic sharply drove down air travel demand and began to affect its earnings.
The national flag carrier also offered the same program to its 376 foreign pilots. Some of the pilots already expressed their intention to take leave before the company proposed the plan.
The foreign pilots, except for dozens of them basically required for the operation of cargo planes, took the unpaid leave from April to June, a company spokeswoman said over the phone.
"The unpaid leave program for foreign pilots is extended until July as countries still maintain lockdowns and entry restrictions on incoming passengers," she said.
Korean Air has suspended more than 90 percent of its overall flights. It currently serves 101 flights a week on 26 international routes, sharply down from over 900 flights on 112 long-haul routes seen before the airline industry was hit by the pandemic.
Also Thursday, Asiana Airlines said it will extend the unpaid leave program for foreign pilots "until business environments for airlines improve to a certain level."
Asiana's 120 foreign pilots, except for dozens of them for the operation of cargo planes, entered the unpaid leave in March, a company spokesman said.
Asiana has also suspended over 90 percent of its total flights. It serves 57 flights a week on 15 international routes, down from 650 flights on 72 long-haul routes before the crisis came.
In other self-help measures, Korean Air had 70 percent of its 20,000-strong workforce take paid leave for six months starting April 16, and it is in the process of selling non-core assets to secure cash.
The company plans to raise 1 trillion won by selling stocks, and the country's two policy lenders -- the Korea Development Bank (KDB) and the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korea Eximbank) -- plan to inject 1.2 trillion won into the carrier.
Asiana also had all of its 10,500 employees start taking unpaid leave for 15 days a month in April until business circumstances normalize. Its executives have agreed to forgo 60 percent of their wages, though no specific time frame was given for how long the pay cuts will remain in effect.
The KDB and Eximbank plan to inject a combined 1.7 trillion won into the cash-strapped carrier.
In the January-March quarter, Korean Air's net losses widened to 736.86 billion won (US$598 million) from 116.95 billion won a year earlier. Asiana's net losses also deepened to 683.26 billion won from 89.18 billion won during the same period.
The two full-service carriers are widely expected to continue to report poor earnings results despite their self-rescue efforts and the state lenders' capital injection if the coronavirus continues to spread in some countries.
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