Finnair (AY, Helsinki Vantaa) will soon begin negotiations with its 700 long-haul pilots aimed at assessing the need for temporary layoffs due to the Covid-19 coronavirus. The flag carrier intends to furlough some pilots after cancelling all of its flights to China until the end of the winter season, the Finnish broadcaster Yle reported.

“We’re preparing for a prolongation of this situation. Negotiations start next week and will include the discussion of possible temporary furloughs,” Finnair’s communications director Päivyt Tallqvist explained.

The airline confirmed in a statement on February 14 that it had cancelled all of its flights to Beijing Capital and Shanghai Pudong until the end of the season on March 28. It will also cancel one of its double-daily flights to Hong Kong Int'l during the same period.

Finnair had already said it would axe its Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Beijing Daxing Int'l flights from February 6 and during March. Customers can change their travel dates or get a refund, it added.

It reiterated its message from February 7 that “the direct financial impact of coronavirus during Q1 2020 is relatively limited, even if the mainland China cancellations continued until the end of Q1 2020.” CEO Topi Manner commented at that point that overstaffing due to cancellations was being addressed by offering employees training and the option of voluntary leave.

Tallqvist told Yle that the company was bracing itself for the possibility that the crisis may drag on.

“This is part of our overall preparedness for a potential continuation of the situation. When we talk about this number of cancellations, we have to evaluate the effect on our human resources needs,” she said.

Meanwhile, Finnair announced on February 13 that it would supplement its daily route to New York JFK this summer season, adding three further weekly frequencies between April 4 and October 24, a fourth between May 4 and October 24, and a fifth between June 8 and August 30.