Emirates' and Etihad’s mammoth fleets are all but grounded after the UAE announced that it will from Wednesday suspend all passenger and transit flights for two weeks, apart from a handful of emergency evacuation and repatriation services.
Emirati authorities implemented the flight ban, which exempts cargo services, as part of measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19.
The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management & UAE General Civil Aviation Authority suspends all inbound, outbound passenger flights, transit of airline passengers effective after 48hrs and for a duration of two weeks.— مكتب أبوظبي الإعلامي (@admediaoffice) March 23, 2020
The UAE’s two major airports, Dubai International and Abu Dhabi International, home to Etihad Airways, collectively processed some 88 million passengers in 2018. All of the UAE's airlines, including budget carriers Air Arabia and flydubai are impacted.
Emirates said on Sunday that all passenger operations were cancelled but later reversed the decision after it "received requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travellers" and will continue to operate passenger flights to 13 destinations.
"We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services," said the airline's chairman and CEO, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.
Emirates will implement 25%-50% salary cuts across the company, which includes some 100,000 employees, but said it will not cut jobs.
The group’s ground handling division, dnata, has also significantly reduced its operations and temporarily closed a number of offices across its international network as most of its airline customers cut flights.
Other cost control measures include a freeze on recruitment, asking staff to take leave, negotiating prices with suppliers and implementing 100% salary cuts for presidents Sir Tim Clark and Gary Chapman.
“As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries re-open their borders, and travel confidence returns,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum,
“By Wednesday 25 March, although we will still operate cargo flights which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended all its passenger operations.
“Emirates Group has a strong balance sheet, and substantial cash liquidity, and we can, and will, with appropriate and timely action, survive through a prolonged period of reduced flight schedules, so that we are adequately prepared for the return to normality.”
Some 230 of Emirates A380s and 777s are parked up at airports including Dubai International and Al Maktoum International, with only a handful being of planes being deployed in repatriation missions.
Its fleet of 777 freighters will continue to remain “busy” as they are used to transport goods including medical supplies across the world.
Airlines in the Middle East have so far lost more than $7 billion in revenue according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Aviation Business has reached out to Etihad and flydubai for comment.