MIAMI — Emirates, one of the globe’s largest airlines, has stepped back from its initial decision on Sunday to temporarily suspend all its passenger commercial flights by March 25, 2020, this after facing pressure from governments.

By stopping all commercial flights, Emirates would have faced the imminent grounding of most of its 269 aircraft. The airline has one of the world’s largest wide-body fleets, with 153 Boeing 777s and 115 Airbus A380s.

The Dubai-based airline giant called its initial suspension a “painful but pragmatic” move, which would help the airline to “preserve business viability and secure jobs worldwide, avoiding cuts.”

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

The company’s new statement regarding the step-back decision explains that the airline had received requests from governments and customers “to support the repatriation of travelers.”

Emirates will thus continue to operate passenger and cargo flights to the following countries until further notice where there is demand and where borders remain open:

UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, USA, South Korea, and Canada.

PHOTO: Airbus.

Why the decision was taken in the first place

The airline’s Chairman and CEO, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, explained that until January 2020, “the Emirates Group was doing well against our current financial year targets. But COVID-19 has brought all that to a sudden and painful halt over the past six weeks.”

“The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” Al Maktoum added. “This is an unprecedented crisis situation in terms of breadth and scale: geographically, as well as from a health, social, and economic standpoint.”

As said by the CEO, Emirates has found itself in a situation where it “cannot viably operate passenger services until countries re-open their borders, and travel confidence returns.”

Al Maktoum cautioned before the step back that the airline would “continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services.”

As of today, even though the airline’s operations have been drastically reduced, it has operated numerous cargo and relief flights to bring back travelers to their home locations.

According to Al Maktoum, some “vital international air cargo links” have been kept to continue transporting medical supplies across the world with its fleet of Boeing 777 Freighters.

Photo: Alf van Beem

Al Maktoum also noted that Emirates continues to enjoy “a strong balance sheet, and substantial cash liquidity,” which will allow them to “survive through a prolonged period of reduced flight schedules.”

Further Cost-Cutting Measures

In spite of today’s decision to continue to operate passenger and cargo flights, Emirates has joined worldwide carriers in applying severe cost-cutting measures as it mitigates the disastrous fall of traffic caused by COVID-19.

The airline has officially postponed or canceled discretionary expenditure; frozen all non-essential recruitment and consultancy work; worked with suppliers to find cost savings and efficiency; encouraged employees to take paid or unpaid leave in light of the reduced flying capacity; and reduced (temporarily) basic salary for the majority of Emirates Group employees for three months (ranging from 25% to 50%).

Also, Emirates has noted that the Presidents of Emirates Airline and dnata, Sir Tim Clark and Gary Chapman, respectively, will take a 100% basic salary cut for three months.

“Rather than ask employees to leave the business, we chose to implement a temporary basic salary cut as we want to protect our workforce and keep our talented and skilled people, as much as possible,” explained Al Maktoum.

Sir Tim Clark – President, Emirates

“We want to avoid cutting jobs. When demand picks up again, we also want to be able to quickly ramp up and resume services for our customers,” he said.

The airline’s CEO added before reverting Emirate’s initial decision that he and his team would continue to watch the situation closely, reinstating their passenger services as soon as feasible. That turned out to be faster than expected.

“These are unprecedented times for the airline and travel industry, but we will get through it. Our business is taking a hit, but what matters, in the long run, is that we do the right thing for our customers, our employees, and the communities we serve,” he said.

In supporting the repatriation of travelers, Emirates is indeed doing the right thing in these dire times for its customers, its employees and the communities it serves – the airline’s final note reads, “the situation remains dynamic, and travelers can check flight status on”