Emirates cuts jobs as coronavirus hammers aviation

Dubai’s Emirates said it would begin laying off staff as the toll of coronavirus on the aviation industry deepens.

The government-owned airline said on Sunday that a review of business operations had made it clear that redundancies were necessary.

“We unfortunately have to say goodbye to a few of the wonderful people that worked with us,” a statement said. “Where we are forced to take tough decisions, we will treat people with fairness and respect.”

Staff on probation received letters on Sunday informing them that their contracts would be terminated in June.

Emirates, which employs about 60,000 people, did not identify the total number of redundancies. The group’s ground-handling unit, Dnata, has begun laying off staff.

The airline has resumed a limited schedule of passenger flights after suspending most operations in late March.

Emirates’ fortunes are vital for Dubai, the commercial and tourism hub of the oil-rich Gulf region, whose outward-facing economy is struggling under the weight of domestic lockdowns and the global slump in travel.

Emirates’ president, Tim Clark, in May said the carrier expected to have its fleet back in the air by the summer of 2020, including its A380 superjumbo jets, based on its forecast that air travel would take two years to recover.

Emirates, along with regional rivals Etihad of Abu Dhabi and Qatar Airways, have disrupted the aviation industry, connecting destinations in the east and west via three Gulf hubs.

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But the impact of coronavirus on travel has hit these so-called superconnector carriers, along with others. Qatar Airways has laid out plans to let go of 20 per cent of its employees.

In the first quarter of 2020, the Dubai carrier raised an additional $1.1bn through loans and other facilities, while the government has pledged to back the airline with financial support.

Emirates said it expected coronavirus to have a “huge impact” on its future performance when it announced its latest financial results earlier in May.

The group said it had been performing well until mid-February when the virus triggered a “sudden and tremendous drop in demand”.