Emirates To Suspend Passenger Services by March 25

 - March 22, 2020, 2:19 PM
An Emirates Airbus A380 touches down at Manchester International Airport in the UK in 2010. The Emirates A380 fleet, the largest in the world, will sit virtually idle by March 25. (Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-SA) by Transport Pixels)

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

Emirates Airline said on Sunday it will suspend most passenger operations by Wednesday, March 25, as international travel comes to a virtual halt amid border closings and evaporation of demand due to the Covid-19 crisis. The Dubai-based airline, the world’s fourth-largest carrier in terms of scheduled passenger miles flown, will continue to support customer repatriations and maintain what Emirates Group chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum called a still-busy Boeing 777 cargo operation. The near-total suspension of passenger services, however, will see the world’s largest Airbus A380 fleet almost completely grounded along with most of the rest of the airline’s long-haul passenger jets.

Specializing in long-haul service at what has become a global crossroads for air travel, Emirates watched demand for international passenger flying almost evaporate over the past few weeks, leading to its decision to halt flying until conditions improve.  

"The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the Covid-19 outbreak,” said Sheikh Ahmed. “This is an unprecedented crisis situation in terms of breadth and scale, geographically as well as from a health, social, and economic standpoint. Until January 2020, the Emirates Group was doing well against our current financial year targets. But Covid-19 has brought all that to a sudden and painful halt over the past six weeks.”

The airline also has announced a series of cost-cutting measures including salary cuts of between 25 and 50 percent across the company, while the presidents of Emirates Airline and Emirates Group logistics giant Dnata—Tim Clark and Gary Chapman—forego salaries for three months. It will exempt what it calls junior employees from the pay cuts. The company is also encouraging employees to take paid or unpaid leave.

Other measures include postponing or canceling all discretionary spending, a freeze on all non-essential recruitment and consultancy work, and working with suppliers and vendors to find cost savings and “efficiency.”

“We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services,” added Sheikh Ahmed. “Emirates Group has a strong balance sheet and substantial cash liquidity, and we can, and will, with appropriate and timely action, survive through a prolonged period of reduced flight schedules so that we are adequately prepared for the return to normality.”

Of course, as a state-owned airline, Emirates enjoys financial backing many other international airlines do not. However, it serves as a significant contributor to the economy of the UAE, which already stands to suffer from the sudden drop in oil prices the Covid-19 crisis has caused.