“Extremely difficult decision”: Flight Centre addresses layoffs

“Extremely difficult decision”: Flight Centre addresses layoffs

TORONTO — Layoffs within Flight Centre’s Canadian operations include hundreds of front-line travel agents, Allison Wallace, VP, Corporate Communications & CSR, The Americas for Flight Centre, has confirmed.

The majority were front-line agents but people in every aspect and level of Flight Centre’s business were impacted, including support at head office, Wallace told Travelweek.

Back in early June, close to three months after the Canadian government issued its global advisory against non-essential travel, Flight Centre announced that its retail model would shift to network ‘hubs’. The idea was that Flight Centre would operate with fewer physical locations, but with more people attached to them. The original plan was for 30 locations to reopen as hubs, however due to the current climate Flight Centre has readjusted that and now plans to reopen 9 hub locations moving forward.

Here is Flight Centre’s statement about the layoffs in Canada, in full:

“There were over 600 people (the majority of which were on furlough) whose roles were made permanently redundant today.

“Since the global COVID 19 pandemic began early this year we have made many hard decisions to respond to the crippling effect the pandemic has had on the travel industry.

“No industry has been hit harder by this pandemic than hospitality and travel. We took these decisions in an effort to reduce our capacity to create amazing travel experiences to a level that matched demand in the COVID world.

“Restrictions on travel have been imposed by governments worldwide at an unprecedented rate. These restrictions remain in place; and clients are concerned about travel and trying to understand exactly what the risk is of visiting other places. The result is a drop in travel demand that is without comparison.

“We vigorously pursued Government assistance in Canada in an effort to access those funds to preserve jobs within the company. In Canada we had some success with the wage subsidy program (CEWS), but it has proven to only be a short-term solution.

“What this means to Flight Centre is that the ‘right size’ for us is even smaller than what we and other major companies in the industry had anticipated.

“Many of our colleagues were furloughed during the outbreak, with the hope and intention of bringing everyone back to the team when we came through the crisis.

“However, we now realize meaningful travel recovery is going to take much longer than originally expected and it simply isn’t feasible to retain our full workforce, or even our present reduced workforce.

“What it means is that we had to further cut costs and that even more people had to be laid off or let go.

“This was an extremely difficult decision that Flight Centre treated with the utmost seriousness. Flight Centre is its people. Our culture is a people culture, one of joint efforts and shared experiences. It is extremely painful for all of us to let our team members go. To let hard workers and valuable contributors go. To let friends go.

“Unfortunately, it is a necessary decision as there simply is not enough demand for us to stay at our present size. Yesterday’s very painful step was taken as a last resort, one that was required to endure and survive in our new reality.”

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