Coronavirus: Emirates staff take pay cut in their stride

The Dubai airline is implementing a 25% to 50% salary reduction for most employees

CORRECTS TO SAY THAT EMIRATES HAS DRAMATICALLY CUT ITS PASSENGER FLIGHT DESTINATIONS AND NOT SUSPENDED ALL FLIGHTS. -- FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2019 file photo, an Emirates jetliner comes in for landing at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. On Sunday, March 22, 2020, long-haul carrier Emirates it has dramatically cut its passenger flight destinations from 145 locations to just 13 countries. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell, File)

Staff at Emirates Airline have described taking a temporary pay cut as a far better option than being made redundant.

Speaking on Monday, a day after the Dubai airline announced it was suspending most passenger operations from March 25, employees said they welcomed the decision to reduce services.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has led to airlines around the world having to drastically reduce usual flight schedules.

Some have also announced salary reductions, with Emirates implementing a 25 to 50 per cent pay cut for most employees.

A cabin crew member from Lebanon, told The National she was happy the staff were not being let go.

“I don’t think anyone is thrilled with the decision of having a salary deduction or not flying or being asked to stay at home,” she said.

“However, for me personally that was expected and I think it’s a very reasonable decision the company has taken.

“I probably am going to face challenges because I am the only one who supports my family back home.

I'd rather take the pay cut and weather out the storm than to be left high and dry like the employees of some other airlines

“[But] I still know that I have a company that’s looking after me.”

Another Emirates employee also agreed the move to suspend services was the right one.

"It's great not to be flying when the situation out there with coronavirus is getting worse," said the 28-year-old from India, who did not wish to be named.

“While there are many cabin crew members with loans, mortgages and credit card debts, many of us are happy not to be flying instead of being put in the face of danger.”

The impact of Covid-19 over recent weeks on the aviation industry has been unprecedented.

Governments around the world have been forced to curb travel to protect public health, reducing standard routes to a bare minimum.

Emirates is currently only operating around a dozen flights and will suspend most passenger operations from Wednesday.

Routes that remain open include passenger and cargo flights to Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, Canada, South Korea, the UK, US and Philippines.

On Monday, a captain with the airline, who wished to remain anonymous, said he would receive a 50 per cent salary reduction.

“I am earning about Dh70,000 so that means, without flight time and with the reduction, I’ll get Dh35,000,” he said.

“It’s enough for me to survive on, but it’s still a huge reduction and I will struggle to pay the loan on my home.

“The banks are being flexible with payments but we are still losing a lot of money. For the cabin crew, it’s worse as they are earning much less than us.”

An Emirati aircraft engineer, with a monthly salary of Dh20,000 said the pay cut meant he needed to review his finances.

His position qualifies him for a 50 per cent drop in earnings.

“I pay Dh7,800 monthly for bills, which means I’ll have less than Dh3,000 to spend for the reminder of the month,” he said.

“I have a family I look after and it’ll be very difficult. My father works too but our household relied heavily on my monthly contribution.”

Another member of the Emirates cabin crew, from the UK, said many of his colleagues might struggle with a lower salary.

“There are loads of crew overdrawn with larger repayments on loans that are bigger than their basic pay, which just took a 25 per cent reduction,” said the 30-year-old.

But he said the news could have been a lot worse considering how other international airlines had reacted.

“I’d rather take the pay cut and weather out the storm than to be left high and dry like the employees of some other airlines that have gone into administration,” he said.

Globally, airlines are looking at ways to not only contain the coronavirus but also reduce costs as revenues dry up.

Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong has reduced its passenger capacity by 96 per cent for April and May.

Singapore Airlines has also announced a 96 per cent drop in flights until at least the end of April.

Meanwhile, American Airlines said it was reducing flights by up to 75 per cent last week.

Norwegian Air announced last week it would be cancelling 4,000 flights and laying off half of its workforce.

UK company Flybe has collapsed. The airline said the outbreak of the virus was partly to blame for it going into administration.