Emirates offers some pilots unpaid leave amid Covid-19 headwinds

Global airlines are forced to either furlough workers or cut jobs as the pandemic continues to batter the aviation industry

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 is offering some pilots an unpaid leave of 12 months, with the possibility of an early recall, as the aviation industry continues to face the pandemic-driven headwinds.

“We continue to do all we can to protect our talent pool for post-pandemic business recovery, but we also need to consider the impact of the current situation on our operations and cost base,” Emirates said in a statement on Thursday.

"Across the group, we are implementing various offers including unpaid leave and more flexible working time models."

The company will continue to to provide "accommodation, medical cover and other allowances" it said, without giving further details.

The aviation sector is among the worst hit sectors of the global economy, as the Covid-19 pandemic decimated air travel demand, forcing airlines severely cut back their operations and ground aircraft. Many cash-strapped airlines have either furloughed workers or cut jobs as part of cost cutting measures.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) last week said airlines need to cut more staff and reduce their cost base as travel demand remains muted in the wake of a resurgence of Covid-19 infections globally.

“The industry has to get smaller at least for the next 12 to 18 months given the much-reduced outlook for travel and revenue and there must be some way of doing that without completely draining airlines of their cash reserves,” Brian Pearce, Iata's chief economist, said during an online media briefing.

Emirates had already offered some staff the opportunity to take voluntary leave in March this year when movement restrictions were first imposed. In July, the carrier's president Tim Clark told the BBC the airline may cut up to 15 per cent of its workforce, or about 9,000 jobs, in response to the current crisis.

Many airlines including Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, United Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa have cut thousands of jobs in recent months or said they would reduce their work force.