Phub Dem | Paro

When airlines worldwide are laying off hundreds of employees due to the pandemic, Drukair has been retaining its employees.

Although the pandemic’s toll on air travel has been severe, the airline employees decided to take certain percent cuts along with other austerity measures.

The decision, according to Drukair‘s Chief Executive Officer, Tandi Wangchuk, was to discourage laying off of staff in the lower-income groups.

Pilots and the engineers working with Drukair have been asked to slash 25 per cent of their gross salary every month to address the financial stress.

According to Tandi Wangchuk, the employees voluntarily had committed to forgo certain percent of the salary for a year. Still, if the situation remained the same, the employees were willing to continue or contribute a significant cut from their salary, he said.

Except for the empoyees below grade 7, general employees and outstation staff voluntarily asked the company to cut 15 percent from their monthly salary.

Other austerity measures include deferment of leave encashment, encouraging staff to leave without pay, extraordinary leave, and strict monitoring of travel and daily allowances.

“Wherever possible, we also reduced hired spaces, surrendered fixed lines and reduced internet packages in our foreign stations,” Tandi Wangchuk said.

Cuts from sitting fee of board members and voluntary slashed from 196 employees and that saved the company around Nu 65 million (M) for the 2021 fiscal year.

Drukair also called back station managers from Kathmandu, Dhaka, Bagdogra, and Guwahati, and the duty officer from Bangkok to reduce overhead costs.

“We have also stopped providing uniforms in 2020 and 2021,” Tandi Wangchuk said.

Drukair has 482 employees, including 16 captains, 29 co-pilots, and four trainee pilots.

With the decision to lay off expat airbus captains, eight pilots left the company, saving around Nu 96M.

Tandi Wangchuk said that if the business remained sot, it would have to take a loan to cover the expenditure. “The voluntary slash will relieve the financial burden on the company. It is a good trend.”

As Drukair operated more than 5,000 flights in 2019, the company projected around 5,800 flights last year before the pandemic. However, with the travel industry grounded, it could operate close to only 1,500 flights, which included repatriation and freight flight.