KUALA LUMPUR | Malaysia Airlines Bhd is the latest carrier to ask employees to take voluntary unpaid leave following the disruption the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has wrought on the aviation and tourism sectors.

Financial daily The Edge reported that the national carrier was offering all its 13,000 employees the option of taking three months’ leave without pay or five days’ unpaid leave a month for a period of three months starting April.

It also said the voluntary unpaid leave programme also covered employees with subsidiaries of Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG) such as MAB Kargo, MAB Engineering, Firefly and MASwings.

On Monday, MAS group chief executive Captain Izham Ismail announced a 10 per cent pay cut for its senior management as part of measures to lower operational costs and cope with the weaker demand for air travel due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

They will also forgo their allowances in the move set to be enforced this month.

“The impact (of Covid-19) to the market is tremendous. People are not travelling. Businesses are not operating as they used to be and the aviation landscape has changed tremendously. MAG is not spared from all of this,” he reportedly said in a video to the airline’s employees.

In the first quarter of 2020, MAG recently introduced huge capacity cuts in the first-quarter (Q1) this year with a 7.1 per cent reduction of fight capacity.

It also cut its capacity to China by 53 per cent and that to South Korea and Japan by 23 per cent.

Already, major international carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet are offering staff unpaid leave.

The World Health Organisation declared today the Covid-19 outbreak, which had swept through over 110 countries with at least 118,000 cases diagnosed, a global pandemic.

It’s the first time the WHO has called an outbreak a pandemic since the H1N1 “swine flu” in 2009.