Emirates to ground majority of fleet from Wednesday as Covid-19 toll grows

Emirates will temporarily cease most passenger operations this week as the world battles an outbreak of coronavirus.

The Dubai-based airline said it would ground almost all passenger services from March 25th, with no date in place for the resumption of flights.

Emirates said it would continue to operate a small number of passenger flights to the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, South Korea, the United States and Canada.

The carrier added that the situation remains dynamic, with travellers able to check the latest flight status online.

The news comes as IATA warns over the viability of airlines in the Middle East, and Etihad seeks to reassure passengers about its long-term prospects.

Emirates said it had aimed to maintain passenger flights for as long as feasible to help travellers return home amid an increasing number of travel bans, restrictions and country lockdowns.

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.

Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, 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, 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 Emirates Group has also 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 and talks with suppliers to find cost savings and efficiency.

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Al Maktoum 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.

“By Wednesday, although we will still operate cargo flights which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended all its passenger operations.

“We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services.”

Emirates employees will be asked to take paid or unpaid leave in light of reduced flying capacity, while pay cuts of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent will be introduced.

On the decision to reduce basic salary, Al Maktoum 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.”

In the longer-term, Al Maktoum said the carrier would endure.

“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,” he concluded.

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