Emirates recalls some furloughed pilots as operations ramp up

Airline will continue to run its staffing requirement in line with scaling of its network and fleet

A pilot of an Emirates Airlines flight from London arrives at Dubai International Airport on May 8, 2020 amid the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Karim SAHIB / AFP)
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Emirates airline said some of its pilots who were furloughed last year due to Covid-19 have returned to work as it ramps up its operations amid signs of a recovery in air travel.

"As demand slowly and gradually returns, Emirates has been positioning itself to support the scaling up of operations and we have already recalled some of our pilots back to flying status," an Emirates spokeswoman told The National yesterday.

She did not specify the number of pilots, the timetable of return or the size of the network’s restored capacity.

“We will continue reviewing our resourcing requirements in tandem with the ramp-up of our network and fleet,” said the spokeswoman.

The coronavirus pandemic hit the aviation industry hard, forcing airlines around the world to preserve cash by grounding aircraft and laying off or furloughing employees.

In November 2020, Emirates said it was offering some pilots unpaid leave of 12 months, with the possibility of an early recall, as the industry faced coronavirus-induced headwinds.

The airline supported furloughed pilots through benefits such as accommodation, medical cover for them and their dependents, educational support allowances for eligible children and the negotiation of fee reductions with select schools in the UAE, the spokeswoman said.

Recognising the potential impact of the pandemic on mental health and well being, Emirates said it has also been supporting employees and their families through its Employee Assistance Programme, an initiative the airline had developed well before the crisis.

The programme is “a 24/7 confidential support channel that covers a broad range of issues to help them through this difficult phase”, said the spokeswoman.

The pandemic dealt a major blow to the global civil aviation industry, "adversely affecting the mental health and well-being of individuals and groups, whether having been continuously in work, on furlough or returning to work in a new reality", according to Marc Atherton, a registered aviation and occupational psychologist.

Last week, Emirates' low-cost sister airline Flydubai said it has asked its furloughed staff to return to work from June amid rising optimism about a rebound in summer travel.

Dubai International Airport was the world's busiest for international flights in May, according to aviation intelligence consultancy OAG.