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Dubai, March 22, 2020
Emirates, the Dubai-based international airline, today said that it would temporarily suspend most of its passenger operations by March 25 due to global coronavirus pandemic, though it would continue to operate cargo flights.
“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," Emirates Group Chairman and Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum said in a statement.
"By Wednesday 25 March, 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," he said.
Sheikh Ahmed said that the world had literally gone into quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak, referring to the ban on international flights by many countries, including India.
"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 6 weeks," he said.
He said that, having received requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travellers, Emirates would continue to operate passenger and cargo flights to the following countries and territories until further notice, as long as borders remain open, and there is demand: the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, USA, and Canada.
The situation remains dynamic, and travellers can check flight status on emirates.com.
Sheikh Ahmed added: “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.”
A statement from the group said that, since the COVID-19 outbreak, Emirates and ground-handling agency dnata had been adapting operations in line with regulatory directives as well as travel demand.
"The airline 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. It continues to maintain vital international air cargo links for economies and communities, deploying its fleet of 777 freighters for the transport of essential goods including medical supplies across the world.
"With many of its airline customers dramatically reducing flights or ceasing services altogether, dnata has also significantly reduced its operations, including temporarily shutting some offices across its international network," it said.
The statement said the Emirates Group had undertaken a series of measures to contain costs, as the outlook for travel demand remains weak across markets in the short to medium term.
These include 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; and a temporary reduction of basic salary for the majority of Emirates Group employees for three months, ranging from 25% to 50%.
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 – Tim Clark and Gary Chapman – will take a 100% basic salary cut for three months.
On the decision to reduce basic salary, 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.”
"These are unprecedented times for the airline and travel industry, but we will get through it. Our business is taking a hit, but what matters in the long run is that we do the right thing for our customers, our employees, and the communities we serve. With the support and unity that we have seen from our employees, partners, customers, and other stakeholders, I’m confident that Emirates can tackle this challenge and come out stronger," he added.