Air Arabia cuts jobs as Covid-19 crisis wipes out global air travel demand

Sharjah-based airline has made 57 redundancies 'taking into consideration the current market realities'

Air Arabia has started operating repatriation flights.Courtesy of Air Arabia.
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Air Arabia, the UAE's only listed airline, is reducing its workforce by about three per cent, joining global carriers in taking measures to cope with the plunge in air traffic demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Sharjah-based carrier, which has about 2,000 employees in total, cut 57 jobs this week, a spokesperson confirmed in an emailed statement.

"It is unfortunate that we had to take the decision to lay off a small number of our staff members this week," the statement said. "This is the first time in our history that we were forced to do so taking into consideration the current market realities.”

Airlines around the world are taking unprecedented measures to survive and preserve cash by slashing flight schedules, grounding planes, and undertaking staff furloughs or lay-offs. The International Air Transport Association, an industry lobby group representing some 290 airlines, forecasts global carriers could lose $314 billion (Dh1.15 trillion) in passenger revenue this year – a 55 per cent drop compared to 2019.

Low-cost carrier Air Arabia, along with other UAE airlines, suspended scheduled passenger flights since March 25, but operates a mix of repatriation flights and cargo services.

Air Arabia did not provide information on the type of jobs that it had cut.

"Since the start of Covid-19 outbreak, we have taken a series of measures to protect the jobs of our employees while sustaining the business," Air Arabia spokesperson said. "We will continue to do everything possible to safeguard our employees by keeping layoffs to the minimum and only as a last resort."

Other Gulf carriers have also announced measures to cope with the worst crisis in the aviation industry's history, including cutting salaries and asking staff to take unpaid leave.

The pandemic "had an impact on the aviation industry, which is forcing airlines all around the world to seek aid and escalate internal measures to ensure their business continuity", the Air Arabia spokesperson said.

Reuters had earlier reported the Air Arabia job cuts.

Iata has repeatedly urged governments around the world to protect their airlines with urgent financial rescue packages or risk their collapse along with job losses.