Emirates to slash up to 9,000 jobs due to Covid-19 but airline better off than others, president says

Company plans to cut as much as 15% of its workforce after having already reduced staff numbers by 10%, Tim Clark told the BBC

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 2, 2020 medical equipment and coronavirus testing kits provided bt the World Health Organisation are pictured passing by an Emirates airlines Airbus A380-861, at the al-Maktum International airport in Dubai, as it is prepared to be delivered to Iran with a United Arab Emirates military transport plane.

 Emirates airline has cut a tenth of its workforce during the novel coronavirus pandemic in layoffs that could rise to 15 percent, or 9,000 jobs, its president said, according to a report today.  / AFP / KARIM SAHIB
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Emirates airline plans to cut up to 9,000 jobs as the company joins its global peers and reduces its workforce in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, to cut costs and preserve cash, but remains in a better state than others, its president said.

The Dubai airline will increase the job cuts to as much as 15 per cent of its workforce, after already letting go of 10 per cent of its staff, Emirates president Tim Clark told the BBC.

The airline, which was set to have one of its "best years ever" before the pandemic, is "not as badly off as others," Mr Clark told the news service.

Last week, Emirates laid off employees in another round of redundancies.

"We can confirm that we are still in the process of implementing the redundancy exercise across our group, as previously communicated," an Emirates spokeswoman told The National.

Emirates restarted flights, bringing its network to 52 destinations in July, as some countries re-open their borders following months of restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

"While we have slowly restarted operations wherever it is safe and commercially viable, our footprint today is significantly smaller than before and it will take a while for us to recover to pre-pandemic levels," the spokeswoman said.

Emirates, which employed more than 60,000 people before the pandemic, did not disclose how many people were made redundant in last week's round of job cuts or from which departments of the business.

"Like other airlines and travel companies, Covid-19 has hit us hard, and as a responsible business, we simply must right-size our workforce in line with our reduced operational requirements," the spokeswoman said. "We continue to take every possible action to reduce costs, restore revenue streams, and preserve jobs.”

The latest redundancies follow Emirates' confirmation in June of an initial round of job cuts to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

The aviation industry is among the worst hit from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic that brought the travel industry to a grinding halt as countries shut their borders. In a bid to conserve cash, airlines have laid off employees, deferred aircraft deliveries and sought government bailouts. Countries around the world have extended $123 billion (Dh451bn) in total financial rescue packages for their carriers to survive the crisis.

The Dubai government has pledged to inject additional capital into the state-owned prize asset Emirates that has helped to transform the city into a global travel hub. It did not disclose the amount of financial support.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata), an industry lobby group representing some 290 carriers, forecasts global airlines will lose $84.3bn in 2020 before cutting their losses to $15.8bn in 2021.

The outlook for air travel demand even after the pandemic is contained still seems grim.

Fewer people are willing to fly when the Covid-19 pandemic subsides than there were at the height of movement restrictions in April, according to an Iata-commissioned survey of travellers in 11 countries.

Some 84 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about catching the virus while travelling, the poll conducted by consultancy Rockland Dutton Research on behalf of Iata showed. The survey said 45 per cent expected to travel within two months, compared to 61 per cent in April.

“This crisis could have a very long shadow," Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director general, said. "Passengers are telling us that it will take time before they return to their old travel habits."

Airlines around the world expect air travel demand to rebound to 2019 pre-crisis levels by 2022-2023.