The chief executive of Qatar Airways has told staff in an internal memo that the airline will be forced to make more redundancies as “COVID-19 continues to tighten its grip on many parts of the world with no sign of slowing down”. Akbar Al Baker warned that “a further reduction of headcount is now sadly unavoidable in some areas” without detailing which departments faced cuts.
In contrast to the largely positive statements Qatar Airways has released about rebuilding its route network, Al Baker said: “many of our routes remain commercially unviable due to a significant drop in global demand for air travel”.
The Doha-based airline is currently serving 100 destinations, having never dropped below 30 destinations even as the first wave of the pandemic largely grounded many airlines. Before the pandemic, Qatar Airways served 170 destinations according to information on the airline’s website.
Qatar Airways first made “substantial” job cuts in early May but Al Baker said the number of redundancies had been “significantly less than many of our competing airlines during this time.”
It is, however, “with a heavy heart” that Al Baker informed staffers of a further tranche of compulsory redundancies. Addressing criticism that the employees who were laid off earlier this year faced a chaotic departure and had issues with leaving salaries being paid, Al Baker said those made redundant would be “treated with the utmost courtesy, respect and compassion”.
“We must not forget that the unprecedented and unforeseen challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic came at a time when the industry was already facing significant pressure due to increasingly adverse market conditions,” the memo continued.
“In addition to this, as outlined in Qatar Airways Annual Report, the airline is dealing with record-breaking losses, due in no small part to the illegal blockade on Qatar by our neighbouring states”.
Qatar Airways recently reported a $1.9 billion loss for the 2019/2020 financial year. The airline has already received nearly the same amount in financial support from the government of Qatar which owns the airline.
Qatar Airways faced criticism over the way it selected who would be made redundant in the first wave of lay-offs with reports the airline disproportionately selected cabin crew with more than 15-years of service. Some of the cabin crew who remained have since been redeployed to work in the airline’s call centre’s while flying remains depressed.
The memo was sent on the same day that regional rival Etihad Airways informed its pilots that more redundancies would be announced imminently.
Qatar Airways employed just over 50,000 employees worldwide across its group of companies as of March 2020. The airline has not publicly said how many employees have been made redundant since the start of the pandemic.
Qatar Airways has been contacted for comment.
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 used by some of the biggest names in journalism.