Middle Eastern airline Emirates has announced that it will undertake as many as 9,000 job cuts due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The job cuts were announced by Emirates president Sir Tim Clark, attributing the move to the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global airline industry. This is the first time that the UAE flag carrier disclosed the number of potential job losses.
Clark said the airline, which had 60,000 employees prior to the pandemic, had already cut a tenth of its staff but said: “We will probably have to let go of a few more, probably up to 15%.”
While he claimed that Emirates was “not as badly off as others”, the current situation represents a steep turnaround from what he said before the pandemic was “heading for one of our best years ever”.
The job cuts
This week, at least 700 of the airline’s 4,500 pilots were given redundancy notices, which means at least 1,200 have been notified about the loss of their jobs since the coronavirus crisis started.
The redundancies were mainly issued to pilots who fly Airbus planes, rather than Boeing aircraft.
Emirates operates superjumbo Airbus A380s which have a capacity of around 500 passengers while its Boeing 777s hold fewer passengers and are therefore easier to fill during this period of decreased airline travel.
Continued struggle of the airline industry
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 290 airlines, forecasts global airlines to lose over $84 billion and one million jobs this year.
This week, United Airlines issued a warning that it may be forced to cut 36,000 employees due to the dramatic decline in air travel demand.
Cowen managing director and senior research analyst Helane Becker explained that given “the continuing issues surrounding the pandemic” she expects US airlines to let go of up to 200,000 of their 750,000 staff this year.
In response to these job cuts, US aviation unions are urging the federal government to add to the $25 billion bailout package it has provided so far. Under the bailout package, airlines have to protect jobs until the end of September in order to receive state aid.
An IATA spokesman said the scale of job cuts in the aviation sector “shows the severe economic crisis facing the industry and all who depend on air connectivity”.
He added that it was understandable for governments to put restrictions in place to try and keep people safe from coronavirus “but this should be done in the full knowledge of the economic and social consequences”.
Earlier this month, Airbus also announced that it will layoff around 15,000 employees, which represent more than 10% of its total workforce, over the next 12 months. The company cited plunging demand for new aircraft due to the travel crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the aircraft producer said the move was in response to a 40% drop in activity in its commercial aircraft business in recent months, and expectations that the recovery will be slow.
The firm stated: “Airbus is grateful for the government support that has enabled the company to limit these necessary adaptation measures. However with air traffic not expected to recover to pre-Covid levels before 2023 and potentially as late as 2025, Airbus now needs to take additional measures to reflect the post Covid-19 industry outlook.”
Airbus, which has 134,000 employees globally, is based in France but has production facilities in Germany, Spain and the UK.