Pilots at Turkish Airlines (TK, Istanbul New) will see their wages halved until end-2021 following an agreement between the airline and labour unions to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the airline confirmed.

In addition, ground staff wages have been cut by 30%, cabin-crew wages by 35% and 30% of “seniority payments” of all employees are being deducted, applicable to all from September 1, 2020, until December 31, 2021, the airline announced following a wage agreement reached with Hava-Is union, which represents almost 75% of the airline’s nearly 30,000 workers.

The agreement was reached on condition the state-owned carrier review its financial health every six months until the end of 2021, Bloomberg reported, quoting Ali Kemal Tatlibal, head of the trade union. In return, Turkish Airlines’ short-term employment period, in terms of which staff received a fraction of their salaries when planes were grounded or operated at limited capacity, would come to an end. The deal between the company and the union was reportedly brokered by the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey resumed domestic flights on June 1, 2020, after controlling the spread of the outbreak. As a result of countries’ reopening their borders, international flights also resumed gradually. According to the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol), Turkish Airlines became the airline with the most flights in Europe in June.

However, like airlines worldwide, it has been hit by a slump in passenger travel demand as a result of the pandemic. The airline’s latest traffic results show it carried 4.8 million fewer passengers in August 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 (2.6 million, compared to 7.4 million passengers), with load factors at 67.6%.

The airline has managed to partly compensate for the shortage on the passenger side with a strong cargo performance. Cargo revenue increased by 52% during the first half of 2020 and 90% during the second quarter of 2020, according to data reported by the airline.