The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based airline, Emirates, will lay off up to 15% of its staff (9,000 employees) as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Emirates’ president, Sir Tim Clark revealed this in a recent interview to the BBC, according to multiple media reports published on Saturday, July 11. Clark said that about a tenth of the staff had been let go and the number may rise up to as much as 15%. Prior to the pandemic, the airline had 60,000 employees, including 4,300 pilots and 22,000 cabin crew. West Asia’s largest airline had stopped operations in March due to the pandemic but resumed scaled-down operations after two weeks. The airline is reportedly aiming to operate in 58 cities by the middle of August, a steep decline from the 157 it was flying to before the outbreak.
Reports suggest that close to 1,400 pilots may be among those laid off. The layoffs at Emirates follow the trend of such firings in the international airline industry which is in deep crisis due to the pandemic. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that worldwide, airlines are facing the prospect of a loss of $84 billion in 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The case of Emirates is all the more stark as it had registered a 21% rise in annual profits in March.
Airline companies across the world have brutally cut costs and laid off thousands. Unions have raised their voice against many of these actions. Air Canada, for example, fired nearly 20,000 of its 38000 employees. The Canadian Union of Public Employees said that the lay-offs were done in such a way that the workers could not access the Canadian government’s support programs. In South Africa, unions have been waging a relentless battle to save the national carrier, South African Airways. The US-based United Airlines also recently warned that it may have to lay off a staggering 36,000 employees because of pandemic-related loss of business. Unions in the United States have written to Congress seeking a USD 32 billion bailout to avoid mass layoffs.
Other airlines in West Asia such as Etihad and Qatar airways have also laid off an unknown number of employees. Several airlines based out of Latin America, such as Aeromexico, LATAM, and Avianca have already filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States. In Asia, Thai Airways is already several months into bankruptcy proceedings.