UPDATE: Emirates will suspend most passenger operations by Wednesday in response to coronavirus
Emirates, the Dubai-based airline known for onboard luxury and a network that connects far-flung corners of the world through the U.A.E., announced that it would suspend most passenger flights by Wednesday as demand for air travel evaporates amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
The carrier has not yet announced a date for when passenger services will resume.
"As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries reopen their borders, and travel confidence returns," Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, CEO of the Emirates Group said in a statement. "By Wednesday 25 March, although we will still operate cargo flights which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended most of its passenger operations. We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services."
Flights will continue between Dubai and the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, USA, and Canada "as long as borders remain open, and there is demand." But, the airline added, "The situation remains dynamic," which seems to suggest more cuts are possible.
Emirates will maintain a robust cargo network, which the airline said will continue aiding the flow of essential goods and medical supplies.
As a cost-cutting measure, Emirates said it would cut most employees' salaries by up to 50% for three months, and its top executives will forego their full salaries for that period. Emirates said it is not planning any layoffs at this time.
"We want to avoid cutting jobs," Sheik Ahmed said. "When demand picks up again, we also want to be able to quickly ramp up and resume services for our customers."
Emirates is the world's largest Airbus A380 operator, with more than 100 of the superjumbo airframes in its fleet, and its suspension of passenger services exemplifies a broader trend in the aviation industry's response to coronavirus.
As demand for air travel has contracted during the pandemic, many airlines have grounded or redeployed their largest jets first. Lufthansa, Qantas and Korean Air all announced a pause in A380 service, and KLM sped up the retirement of its Boeing 747 fleet. Even smaller wide-bodies, like the Boeing 777, have proved uneconomical in recent weeks. American Airlines announced last week it would start using some of its 777s for cargo-only flights — the first time AA has flown jets without passengers in scheduled service since the 1980s.
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