Kuoni has become the latest travel company to ask staff to take unpaid leave to cut costs.

Under the voluntary scheme, the operator’s employees will be able to take up to two weeks off between July 1 and December 31 this year. Staff will be given a choice of how the money will be stopped from their salaries.

The group’s executive board in Zurich, UK managing director Nick Hughes and other key UK directors and corporate centre staff are waiving part of their salary without taking leave.

Hughes said: “These are unprecedented times, not just the travel industry, but for the global economy. On top of this, the ramifications for the industry of the global swine flu pandemic are impossible to assess – but we need to be prepared.

“We need to continue to rise to the challenges of seeking ways of managing our costs as tightly as possible, and it is only natural that we should use all prudent means of improving our efficiencies,” he added.

The company employs about 650 people in the UK. Its specialist UK operations are Voyages Jules Verne, Kirker, Journeys of Distinction, CV Travel and Carrier.

By last month, 7,000 British Airways workers had agreed to take unpaid leave or go part-time, with almost 800 agreeing to work unpaid for up to a month.

BA said the measure will save the company £10 million.