Etihad Airways is preparing to cut even more of its workforce as the true scale of the COVID-19 crisis becomes clear and the Abu Dhabi-based airline prepares for a long and drawn-out recovery. An Etihad spokesperson has confirmed that job losses are being made as a direct result of the pandemic but has declined to provide numbers of how many staff are affected and what departments are most impacted.
“As an organisation, we had high hopes for 2020 but, looking ahead, this year now looks dramatically different to what we could ever have imagined,” airline managers told cabin crew in a recently updated memo. “Current forecasts suggest passenger demand won’t return to pre-crisis levels until 2022, we’re facing large potential revenue losses and there is no clear view as to when we’ll be able to resume ‘normal’ operations.”
A few weeks ago, Etihad had been hoping to resume some form of normal operations by the middle of May and chief executive Tony Douglas said the airline was taking a “business a usual approach” to restarting flights. Since those comments were made, the situation has clearly deteriorated and Etihad no longer believes it will be able to restart regularly scheduled flights until mid-June at the earliest. Further details are still be revealed.
Etihad told staffers: “We must face the reality that, at least for the immediate future, we’re going to be operating at a reduced capacity. It’s becoming clear that as the COVID-19 crisis has continued, we’re simply unable to sustain the current number of employees we have.”
Sources claim cabin crew and other affected employees had been told they were being axed in short 15-minute video conference meetings after little warning and no consultation. Based on feedback over that process, impacted staff will now have the opportunity to have a one-on-one meeting with their manager. Further redundancy notices have been sent out on Sunday and Monday.
“To those of you leaving us, please do not see this as being ‘fired’ or ‘terminated’, what is happening is a direct consequence of the COVID-19 crisis,” the memo continued. “To those of you not directly impact, now more than ever we must come together to weather this storm and continue to deliver the world-class service that Etihad is known for”.
As of August 2019, Etihad had 20,500 employees, including nearly 5,000 cabin crew and 2,184 pilots. Around 88 per cent of Etihad’s employees are foreign expatriate workers who hail from over 150 countries.
In March, Etihad reported an annual loss of $870 million, stemming from a disastrous equity investment scheme that spectacularly backfired in 2016 and which plunged the government-owned airline $1.87 billion into the red. Since then, Etihad has dramatically scaled back its ambitions for international growth and has implemented a far-reaching cost-cutting programme which had been showing positive signs of success until the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
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.