Etihad Airways asks crew to take paid leave sooner as coronavirus outbreak hurts air travel demand

Dubai's Emirates made a similar announcement this week

Flight EY949 was diverted to Salalah in Oman. Courtesy: Etihad Airways
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Etihad Airways encouraged its cabin crew to consider taking leave sooner in the year, joining global airlines in taking measures to cope with the drop in air traffic demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The move comes after Dubai's Emirates earlier this week said it was offering employees the option to take leave or apply for voluntary unpaid leave for up to a month at a time.

Etihad spokeswoman said: "Global restrictions on travel and re-timing of events have caused many passengers to change their travel arrangements, and the airline is among many realigning resources to accommodate these changes.

"Etihad Airways has asked cabin crew members to consider bringing forward paid leave from later this year to April, due to changed demand caused by the Covid-19 virus," she said.

Etihad has not asked its 4,800-strong staff to take unpaid leave, according to the spokeswoman.

The airline suspended all flights to China, except Beijing, on directives from the UAE aviation regulator.
Etihad told The National it has not grounded any aircraft in relation to changes in demand.

Major business events across various industries around the world are being cancelled or postponed as a safety precaution against the virus that has been spreading rapidly.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank will adopt a "virtual format" for their coming spring meetings in April, instead of convening in Washington. Similarly, Opec said it will not allow journalists into the secretariat's headquarters in Vienna as a precautionary measure for its ministerial meeting this week.

The International Air Transport Association on Monday urged Middle East governments to support their airlines through relief measures to help mitigate the impact from the virus outbreak.

Governments around the world tightened restrictions on travel and offered economic stimulus packages to counter the impact of the health scare that has rattled the global economy.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has led to more than 3,200 deaths and 93,000 infections worldwide. People are now infected in more than 70 countries and territories outside China, where the virus first emerged. However, the World Health Organisation has yet to declare the outbreak a global pandemic.

Global airlines are forecast to lose an estimated $29.3 billion (Dh107.6bn) in revenue this year, 5 per cent lower than forecast in December, due to an estimated 4.7 per cent decline in travel demand, the Iata said in an initial assessment of the coronavirus impact.