Emirates asks its cabin crew to take voluntary unpaid leave

Global airlines are expected to post losses of about $100bn this year due to the effect of the pandemic

Emirates Airline planes are seen at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Christopher Pike
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Emirates asked its cabin crew to take voluntary unpaid leave as the airline looks to cut costs and preserve cash amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has reduced demand for air travel.

The airline offered employees the chance to take three months' unpaid leave starting from the beginning of next month, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

"We can confirm that we had offered cabin crew the opportunity to apply for voluntary unpaid leave," a spokeswoman from Emirates said in a statement to The National.

The aviation industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic as airlines were grounded for months when countries closed their borders to contain the virus.

Global airlines are expected to suffer heavy losses this year as many countries continue to implement strict travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The total losses are expected to be in the range of $100 billion (Dh367bn) this year, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata). The industry's main trade group expects that passenger traffic will not recover to pre-crisis levels before 2024.

Emirates had already offered some staff the opportunity to take voluntary leave in March this year when movement restrictions were first imposed. President Tim Clark also told the BBC last month it planned to cut up to 15 per cent of its workforce, or about 9,000 jobs, in response to the current crisis.

However, 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 said.

In March, the Dubai government pledged to inject additional equity into the airline that has helped transform the city into a global travel hub. It did not disclose the amount of financial support.

A number of other airlines are also laying off staff to reduce costs. Australia’s Qantas Airways this week said it is planning to cut up to 2,500 jobs by outsourcing its ground handling operations, while American Airlines is aiming to cut 19,000 jobs in October.

In May, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways said it cut jobs in several areas of its business, joining its global peers in taking tough measures to reduce overheads during the crisis.

Although most countries have now reopened their borders, restrictions remain in place across the world. According to IHS Markit, the number of flights operating currently remains about 30 per cent below the levels experienced in February.