Emirates to suspend most passenger flights because of coronavirus

22 Mar 2020 by Tom Otley
Emirates A350-900

UPDATE March 23, 2020: NOTE that the situation has changed once again.

See the below story for the link to the new situation for both Emirates and Etihad. 

Emirates and Etihad to suspend all services from March 25


Emirates is suspending most passenger flights from March 25, 2020.

The airline will operate passenger flights to the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, South Korea, USA and Canada.

The airline had previously planned to suspend all passenger operations, and sent out a release confirming this, but “having received requests from governments and customers to support repatriation of travellers,” it changed its mind and instead “…will continue to operate passenger and cargo flights to few countries until further notice, as long as borders remain open, and there is demand.”

The airline says that “the situation remains dynamic” and advises passengers to check its website

The airline is in a difficult situation, since not only does it have to consider the safety of passengers and its employees, but also the possibility that by maintaining passenger services, it is inadvertently providing a means for the Covid-19 virus to move between countries.

Coronavirus: Emirates adds thermal screening on US flights, cuts flights to Italy

Emirates says that it “has aimed to maintain passenger flights for as long as feasible to help travellers return home amidst an increasing number of travel bans, restrictions, and country lockdowns across the world”

As far as cargo is concerned, it says “It continues to maintain vital international air cargo links for economies and communities, deploying its fleet of B777 freighters for the transport of essential goods including medical supplies across the world.”

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Group said:

“The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 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.

“As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries re-open their borders, and travel confidence returns. By Wednesday March 25, although we will still operate cargo flights which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended most of its passenger operations. We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services.”

The airline has brought in several measures to safeguard “customers, employees, and communities”.

The company has strongly discouraged its employees from non-essential travel, implemented work from home policies for all employees where operationally feasible, enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols at its facilities, introduced temperature screening at its key office entry points, and launched internal educational campaigns on hand hygiene and health practices to reduce risk of COVID-19.

Over the past weeks, the airline has also implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures on all of its aircraft departing Dubai as a precaution, and worked closely with airports to implement screening measures as required by the local authorities.

Frontline employees such as crew and airport teams have also been provided with support to stay safe while on duty, including providing hand sanitizers and masks where required.

More generally, the airline says that it has brought in cost reduction measures including:

  • Postponing or cancelling discretionary expenditure
  • A freeze on all non-essential recruitment and consultancy work
  • Working with suppliers to find cost savings and efficiency
  • Encouraging employees to take paid or unpaid leave in light of reduced flying capacity
  • A temporary reduction of basic salary for the majority of Emirates Group employees for three months, ranging from 25 per cent to 50 per cent. Employees will continue to be paid their other allowances during this time. Junior level employees will be exempt from basic salary reduction
  • Presidents of Emirates and dnata – Sir Tim Clark and Gary Chapman – will take a 100 percent basic salary cut for three months

On the decision to reduce basic salary of Emirates employees, Sheikh Ahmed said:

“Rather than ask employees to leave the business, we chose to implement a temporary basic salary cut as we want to protect our workforce and keep our talented and skilled people, as much as possible. We want to avoid cutting jobs. When demand picks up again, we also want to be able to quickly ramp up and resume services for our customers.”

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