The aviation industry has been devastated by the Coronavirus pandemic but unlike some sectors, airlines aren’t expecting a rapid recovery once governments start lifting lockdown restrictions. Many carriers are operating just 5 per cent of their usual schedules, while others have been forced to almost completely ground their aircraft indefinitely – no one knows for sure when a recovery might come but analysts suspect a return to pre-Coronvirus passenger numbers might not come until 2023.
Emirates Airline has been particularly badly affected by the pandemic because of travel restrictions imposed by the government of the United Arab Emirates which effectively shuttered the airline in late March. Emirates is unable to carry foreign passengers through its hub in Dubai and only local citizens are allowed on flights to the country,
At present, Emirates suggests it might be able to restart some regularly scheduled flights in July – although, that is subject to be a further delay depending on how the Corona-crisis develops. Even then, Emirates’ president Sir Tim Clark said he would “write off” the prospect of people flying much this summer.
“We have just got to accept that in the next year or two, perhaps a bit longer, demand for air travel is going to be tempered in many respects,” Sir Tim said on Tuesday. The longtime aviation executive then warned that Emirates could become 20 to 30 per cent smaller as a result of the crisis.
Until now, Emirates has avoided laying off large numbers of its workforce but with the prospect of a quick recovery starting to fade and thoughts of a much smaller airline being tabled, job losses are now on the cards.
In the last few days, Emirates told cabin crew who are due to have their contract renewed within the coming months that they will only be offered a temporary two-month extension. Some crew have been warned not to even expect an extension at all, although Emirates has remained tight-lipped on how many crew may actually leave the airline because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Yesterday, a leaked letter from Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker warned cabin crew that there would be “substantial” job losses. Baker, acknowledged that because of the airline’s heavy reliance on foriegn workers, many of those made redundant wouldn’t be able to return home because of travel restrictions.
Instead, Qatar Airways said laid off staffers would be allowed to remain in company accommodation and would be paid a living allowance until their repatriation could be arranged. Emirates has not yet detailed how it will handle laid off expat workers who can’t return home because of ongoing travel restrictions.
It’s increasingly likely that Etihad Airways will also move to lay off more staff because of the crisis. A couple of months ago, several hundred cabin crew were fired for ‘poor performance’.
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.