Emirates Starts Pilot, Cabin Crew Layoffs

 - June 9, 2020, 11:55 AM
An Emirates Boeing 777-300ER taxis at Geneva International Airport in 2016. (Photo: David McIntosh)

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

Emirates Airline said Tuesday that it has begun pilot and cabin crew cuts but declined to confirm the numbers of employees affected or reports of severe pay cuts for those who remain. The move marks a second round of cuts following its decision two weeks ago to let go of hundreds of A380 pilot and flight attendant trainees.

“As previously communicated, we at Emirates have been doing everything possible to retain the talented people that make up our workforce for as long as we can,” said an Emirates spokesperson in a written statement. “However, given the significant impact that the pandemic has had on our business, we simply cannot sustain excess resources and have to right-size our workforce in line with our reduced operations. After reviewing all scenarios and options, we deeply regret that we have to let some of our people go. This was a very difficult decision and not one that we took lightly. The company is doing everything possible to protect the workforce wherever we can. Where we are forced to take tough decisions, we will treat people with fairness and respect. We will work with impacted employees to provide them with all possible support.”

The moves come despite some of the first signs of a return to regular revenue operations, as the UAE on June 3 lifted its restrictions on connecting flights through Dubai and Abu Dhabi for Emirates and Etihad Airways, respectively. Emirates said it would start passenger services to 16 more cities on its Boeing 777-300ERs on June 15, including Bahrain, Manchester, Zurich, Vienna, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, New York JFK, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta, Taipei, Hong Kong, Perth, and Brisbane. Separately, the airline began offering flights from Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad on June 8 for travelers from Pakistan wanting to connect to other Emirates destinations. 

Emirates suspended its scheduled passenger operations on March 25, as international travel came to a virtual halt amid border closings and evaporation of demand due to the Covid-19 crisis. Following an announcement in early April that the airline would resume a limited number of outbound flights on April 6, largely to repatriate stranded foreigners, Dubai’s crown prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said the emirate would fully support the airline and committed to an injection of fresh capital. 

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 exacerbated.