The layoffs are a stunning reversal of fortune for the world’s largest plane maker, which was founded 50 years ago.
In February, as its U.S. rival, Boeing, stumbled from the yearlong grounding of its 737 Max plane, Airbus faced a large backlog of orders. Production of its A320 jet — the main competitor to the 737 Max and the bulk of Airbus’s commercial business — was months behind schedule because of slowdowns at some of its European factories.
As the coronavirus pandemic brought much of global air travel to a halt, Airbus’s fortunes tumbled with the rest of the aviation industry. Airlines are now planning for years of reduced passenger demand, and this means less need for new planes.
The company is shedding 5,000 of its 49,000 employees in France, 5,100 of 45,500 positions in Germany, 900 of 12,500 workers in Spain and 1,700 of 11,000 positions in Britain. Another 1,300 will be cut at other Airbus sites around the world, and about 900 are part of a previously planned restructuring.
The job losses will need to be discussed with labor unions at its European operations, Airbus said, and are expected to be completed no later than next summer. The company will seek to meet its goals through voluntary departures, early retirement and long-term partial unemployment schemes where appropriate, it said.