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Japanese LCC Skymark Chooses 4-Day Workweek Instead of Furloughs
Owing to decreased travel demand due to COVID-19, Japanese low-cost carrier (LCC) Skymark Airlines has introduced a four-day workweek for its office employees beginning next spring. Unlike its counterparts around the world, which have furloughed or cut staff, the Tokyo-based airline is choosing to keep its workers employed and is avoiding furloughs by reducing work hours for its office workers.
Skymark is the first among Japanese airlines to decide on such a measure for employees at its headquarters or branch offices. The Japanese LCC is following the steps of major Japanese companies like Mizuho Financial Group and Toshiba in introducing a four-day workweek — originally done to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to a source with knowledge of the airline’s proposed work plan, the airline’s business operations will be adjusted as necessary to ensure that it does not affect the airline’s operations.
Before COVID-19, Skymark was already introducing more a more progressive workplace having a shorter work week plan in place for its employees with family obligations, such as taking care of children or parents. According to The Japan Times, in addition to the flexible four-day workweek plan, Skymark is also looking to change its pay structure, creating one that is more equitable. Carriers like Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA) have also followed suit creating flexible work plans that allow their flight attendants to reduce working hours.
As Skymark is an exclusively domestic carrier, operating flights mainly from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, it has suffered less from COVID-19 than larger international carriers, particularly compared to other Japanese airlines, such as ANA or Japan Airlines. Those airlines — Japan’s largest carriers — have had to cut the workdays of their frontline employees, including flight attendants and pilots. Due to the nature of its operations, Skymark has also seen a growth in travel demand in recent months as domestic flights demand has picked up. The airline’s passenger load factor, or the number of seats filled out of the total available, was nearly 60% in November.
Skymark Airlines was founded in 1996 as an independent domestic airline and today is the largest independent airline in Japan. Skymark is also the only domestic carrier competing with ANA and Japan Airlines at Haneda Airport. The airline filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2015 after reporting $571.3 million in liabilities, but its finances quickly improved beginning in 2016. The Japanese LCC operates a fleet of 29 Boeing 737-800 jets flying to major cities and vacation destinations across Japan.
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