The Czech Republic’s largest airline is to lay off a third of its 900-strong staff, the company said on Wednesday, citing a drop in demand due to the stand-off between Ukraine and Russia.

Western Global AirlinesA spokesman said the lay-offs – which are set to include pilots – became necessary after passenger numbers from Russia and other former Soviet republics declined due to the crisis in Ukraine.

Union representatives said the restructuring threatened the very existence of the airline, adding that they were prepared to organize a strike.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka also raised concerns over the plan, and said his predecessors’ decision to partly privatize the company had been a failure.

The airline, co-owned by Korean Air, has been shedding assets in an attempt to reverse the losses resulting from a failed expansion several years ago.

Like many European carriers, it is facing competition from low-budget airlines including Ryanair and easyJet.


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