DUBAI: Emirates announced on Sunday (Mar 22) that it will “temporarily suspend” all its passenger operations from Wednesday in light of the COVID-19 outbreak that has forced countries to close their borders.
The deadly coronavirus has caused the world to go “into quarantine”, affecting business for the airline, the chairman and CEO of the Emirates Group Sheikh Ahmed Saeed Al Maktoum said.
“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,” he added.
“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.
“We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services.”
Cargo flights remain busy and will operate as normal, he said.
BASIC SALARY CUTS AS PART OF COST REDUCTION MEASURES
Employees will also be affected as cost reduction measures are put in place, with travel demand remaining weak across markets in the short to medium term.
These measures include encouraging employees to take paid or unpaid leave because of reduced flying capacity and a temporary basic salary cut for most Emirates Group employees for three months.
The reduction in basic salary for most employees will range from 25 per cent to 50 per cent. The presidents of Emirates and dnata, a cargo handling company under the Emirates Group, will take a 100 per cent basic salary cut for three months.
“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,” Sheikh Ahmed explained.
“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.”
Over the past weeks, the airline has also “implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures on all of its aircraft departing Dubai as a precaution”.
“Frontline employees such as crew and airport teams have also been provided with support to stay safe while on duty, including providing hand sanitisers and masks where required,” Sheikh Ahmed said.
Today we made the decision to temporarily suspend all passenger flights by 25 March 2020. SkyCargo operations will continue. This painful but pragmatic move will help Emirates Group preserve business viability and secure jobs worldwide, avoiding cuts. https://t.co/fkQ59ExVxA 1/3 pic.twitter.com/j7ytftExn2
— Emirates Airline (@emirates) March 22, 2020
“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,” the CEO added.