Emirates Airline steps back from suspending all passenger flights after lobbying from governments

An Airbus A380-800 passenger plane of the Emirates Airlines at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport.

Mikhail Tereshchenko | TASS | Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Dubai-based Emirates Airline has stepped back from its initial move Sunday to suspend all passenger flights due to the coronavirus crisis after facing pressure from governments.

Instead, it will temporarily suspend “most” passenger flights by March 25 , with flights still operating to several destinations based on demand and border accessibility. 

“Having receiving requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travellers, Emirates will continue to operate passenger and cargo flights to the following countries until further notice, as long as borders remain open, and there is demand: the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, USA, and Canada,” a company statement said Sunday.

“The situation remains dynamic, and travellers can check flight status on emirates.com.”

The company added South Korea to that list shortly after issuing the statement. 

The news comes amid mounting national lockdowns, border closures and flight groundings as coronavirus cases climb around the world. 

Emirates Group said Sunday that it will not cut jobs, but will implement a temporary reduction in basic salary for the majority of its employees for three months, ranging from 25% to 50%. Emirates is the world’s largest A380 operator, and top-five largest airline in terms of passenger and freight ton kilometers flown.

“Pay cuts are across the board except junior level staff. But it is only on basic salaries. Flying pay isn’t affected by the announced cuts,” a representative from the company told CNBC.

Cost-cutting measures being undertaken by the group beyond the salary cuts include postponing or canceling discretionary spending, freezing all non-essential recruitment and consultancy work, encouraging employees to take paid or unpaid leave, and a 100% basic salary cut for Emirates and airport services provider dnata’s presidents Tim Clark and Gary Chapman.

The decision for the airline, one of the world’s largest in terms of passenger miles flown, means a significant hit to jet fuel demand in the region. Globally, major airlines are slashing services as demand screeches to a halt while people are urged to stay at home and self-isolate to slow the spread of the virus.

American Airlines last week announced a 75% cut to its operations, while United plans to cut 90% of international services scheduled for April.

British Airways is cutting its flight capacity by 75% for April and May, and Turkish Airlines, the world’s largest in terms of passenger destinations, has said that 85% of its passenger planes are not being used. Major airlines in the U.S. have asked the government for more than $50 billion in rescue funds to avoid furloughing thousands of workers.

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