Tunisia’s national carrier is seeking economic support from the government as it plans to lay off 15 per cent of the total staff to ease financial difficulties.
Government intervention is seen as key to “rescue” the carrier, whose $363m restructuring plan has yet to be implemented.
Elyess Mankabi, the company’s chief executive, said Tunisair is “suffering from major financial difficulties because of the high number of workers and the wage bill of the company.”
“We’ve proposed to lay off 1,200 workers and we await the government’s approval for this programme, which will help the company ease its financial burden and get out of its crisis,” said Mankabi.
The airline's growing financial difficulties have led to the interruption in the provision of services, with flight delays and cancellations affecting many passengers.
According to a report by UK-based Reuters, the 30 fleet-strong Tunisair currently employs 8,000, which means its aircraft-to-employee ratio is three times larger the global norm. MEED understands Tunisair’s active fleet is now down to 24, due to lack of maintenance and spare parts.
The Arab Spring that began in 2011 and resulted in the ousting of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who was president of Tunisia since 1987, has had a major impact on the airline’s performance in recent years, with the country recording a significant drop in the number of tourists and investors.
The pending implementation of an Open Skies agreement with the EU also threatens the airline with increased competition.
MEED understands the Open Skies agreement with the EU, which could be implemented as early as 2019, will open all airports to foreign carriers except Tunisair’s main base in the capital. According to the negotiated agreement, Tunis’ Carthage International airport will only open to foreign carriers starting on the fifth year of the agreement.
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