In an internal memo, Emirates staffers based in Dubai have been told to avoid all personal and non-essential business travel to “highly affected” countries hit by the global COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. If staff do choose to ignore that advice they could face being placed in quarantine for 14-days – in most cases that time away from work would either be unpaid or taken from annual leave allowances.
The airline did not specify which countries could result in a home quarantine if employees visited but would most likely include Italy, South Korea and mainland China. It’s unclear whether other countries in Europe that have seen significant outbreaks could also be included – such as France, Germany and Spain.
However, Emirates is encouraging all employees to “review upcoming travel plans” with a view to cancelling international travel and instead spend time away from work within the UAE. Local Emirati residents have already been urged by the UAE government to avoid international travel but the country has resisted calls to introduce wide-sweeping travel bans because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Emirates has previously tried to convince passengers that it remains safe to fly despite Coronavirus, detailing the “enhanced cleaning and complete disinfection” of all planes departing from its hub at Dubai International Airport. Along with many other airlines, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) maintains that the risk of catching a virus on a flight “remains low” despite the current outbreak.
Emirates freezes recruitment across the business
Over the last few weeks, Emirates has been forced to suspend an ever-increasing number of flights. So far, the airline has axed nearly all flights to mainland China with the exception of Beijing, cut flights to Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait because of new travel restrictions and has finally relented to pressure to suspend all services to Italy because of a nationwide lockdown.
The airline has also cut several flights to North America, including its controversial services between Milan and New York JFK, and Athens to Newark, as well as between Dubai and Fort Lauderdale.
With passenger demand down and flights cancelled, Emirates has now frozen recruitment in nearly all departments across the business. Yesterday, Emirates quickly postponed or cancelled cabin crew recruitment events due to be held over the next couple of months in cities around the world.
Newly hired expat staff who were due to travel to Dubai over the next few weeks and months have been told that training courses are suspended until further notice.
“This most recent challenge (COVID-19) looks to be the largest that Emirates and the industry have faced in many years,” Emirates’ chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum told staffers.
Sheikh al-Maktoum warned that further flight cancellations would likely be announced in the coming days and weeks. In the last few days, India banned most foreign visa holders from entering the country until further notice. Residents of the UAE have been told to avoid travelling to India even if they are eligible to enter the country.
And President Trump slapped a travel ban on 26 European countries for a period of 30-days, claiming Europe had not done enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Emirates quickly rolled out thermal screening on all outbound flights from Dubai to the United States.
IATA previously estimated that the Coronavirus outbreak could cost global airlines as much as $113 billion but has since trashed that figure because of “severe measures” being implemented by the likes of the United States and India.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.