Etihad Airways has told pilots to move into smaller company-provided accommodation close to its headquarters near Abu Dhabi International Airport or face being sacked according to internal company sources who claim to be familiar with the matter. The latest cost-cutting move comes nearly two weeks after the heavily indebted airline warned pilots of more imminent job losses in the face of a slower than expected recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like many airlines in the Middle East, Etihad provides accommodation for most of its workers including cabin crew and pilots. Most employees live in shared apartments with the majority of bills covered by the airline but pilots are afforded the opportunity to live in accommodation of their choosing with rent and bills heavily subsidised.
Sources claim pilots have now been given an ultimatum to move into apartments within Etihad Plaza, part of the airline’s head office. Pilots who decline the move will reportedly have their contracts terminated.
As of February 2020, Etihad employed 1,969 pilots although the airline has not updated these figures since Coronavirus related lay-offs were initiated. Etihad has declined to say exactly how many pilots it has made redundant since February but the airline’s chief executive Tony Douglas has admitted that “thousands” of employees have been laid-off.
Sources claim a further 240 foreign expat pilots were made jobless in the last couple of weeks, along with a further 680 cabin crew.
Last week, the airline told staffers that it had “indefinitely” grounded its fleet of 10 Airbus A380s citing a slower than expected recovery in the demand for air travel. Unlike neighbouring Dubai, the emirate of Abu Dhabi is still shut to international tourists and a resurgence of COVID-19 in Europe, the United States and elsewhere is continuing to pummel demand.
Douglas told reporters last month that no decision had yet been made whether to scrap the A380’s but a spokesperson for the airline said the double-deck aircraft would remain grounded unless demand increased sufficiently.
Etihad has confirmed plans to significantly downsize the airline, labelling itself as a mid-sized carrier. The company has already jettisoned some of its senior management team in an attempt to reduce costs, while further cabin crew redundancies are expected early next year.
Cabin crew on older, better-paid contracts are expected to be firing line. A spokesperson for Etihad said the airline does “not comment on rumour or speculation”.
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.