Editorial comment – Tough times, solutions

Fiji Airways managing director and CEO Andre Viljoen with Fiji Airways staffs welcome the Boeing 737 MAX 8 dubbed the 'Island of Gau' at their hangar in Nadi. Picture: BALJEET SINGH/FILE

The announcement yesterday that our national airline Fiji Airways had terminated the contracts of 758 staff attracted attention.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, the airline said those terminated included 79 expatriate pilots and eight expatriate executives.

Fiji Airways managing director and CEO Andre Viljoen announced the workforce adjustments “as a consequence of the current and foreseeable operating environment”.

He said the adjustments “are necessary and unavoidable as the COVID-19 crisis endures, causing the further suspension of scheduled international services and ensuring that the airline will receive virtually zero revenue in the coming months”.

Fiji Airways, he said, was also negotiating with its lenders and aircraft lessors for loan and lease payment deferrals. It was also arranging debt finance from a number of financial institutions.

Understandably we can’t truly pinpoint when global travel might resume.

But we can certainly consider the fact that it’s going to be pretty different from what we expect.

Caution, and safety would be key considerations among other factors that must be ticked now moving forward.

BBC reported that many airports, including in London, have already introduced measures to cater for essential travellers based on government guidelines.

According to the BBC, these include between one and two-metre distancing at all times (excluding people who live together), hand sanitisers distributed throughout the airport and efforts to spread passengers more evenly across terminals.

In the US, it stated, the Transport Security Administration (TSA) said travellers should wash their hands for 20 seconds – in accordance with official guidelines – before and after the security screening process.

But, at Hong Kong International Airport, testing, it stated, was under way on a full-body disinfectant device.

This, the airport said, can sanitise users within 40 seconds, using sprays that kill bacteria and viruses on skin and clothing.

What we are used to now will definitely not be the norm when and if global travel resumes, whenever that may be. It was inevitable that job losses would follow.

This is the harsh reality of times we are now living in. CNN reported earlier this month that the US economy lost 20.5 million jobs last month according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Our thoughts are with all those trying to make ends meet today, and contemplating the future.

As we search for ways to sustain ourselves in the face of this global pandemic, and look with hope and optimism to the experts for advice, we are reminded about the need to stay vigilant.

We look to the powers that be to embrace what must be done for all Fijians.

We look forward to solutions. COVID-19 is not going away any time soon.

We are also reminded that we must prevent a second wave.

That means staying on course.

It means knuckling down, and doing what must be done to keep the virus at bay.

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