Emirates Group is considering plans to cut about 30,000 jobs as the operator of the world’s largest long-haul carrier seeks to reduce costs after the coronavirus pandemic grounded air travel.
The Dubai-based group could slash the number of employees by about 30% from more than 105,000 at the end of March, according to people familiar with the matter.
Emirates is also considering accelerating the retirement of its fleet of Airbus SE A380s – of which it is the biggest operator, some of the people said, declining to be identified because the information hasn’t been made public.
Emirates said it is reviewing “costs and resourcing” levels against projections as it prepares for a resumption in service.
“No announcement has been made regarding mass redundancies at the airline,” it said in an emailed statement. “Conserving cash, safeguarding our business, and preserving as much of our skilled workforce as possible remain our top priorities.”
Airlines across the globe are cutting jobs after being hit with an unprecedented near-total shutdown of travel, and the permanent destruction of this many jobs would be the most yet. IAG SA’s British Airways said last month that it would cleave some 12,000 from its payroll, while more than 100,000 workers at the four largest U.S. carriers have taken voluntary leave, reduced hours or early retirement.
Over the long term, more drastic moves may be necessary. More than 4 million have been infected and 300,000 have died as the health emergency swept across continents. Governments are just now contemplating opening borders that have been shut for months, and without a vaccine there’s no assurance infections won’t surge or that travelers will get back on planes.
With about 70% of global capacity idled, the airline industry stands to lose $314 billion in ticket sales this year, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Emirates President Tim Clark this month told Abu Dhabi-based The National that he expects demand for airline travel to be “tempered” for at least the next couple of years. He also called the pandemic a black swan event for the industry, referring to a rare occurrence with extreme impact.
Dubai’s government said in March it would financially support the airline, which has taken a slew of measures to shore up cash since the virus outbreak. Those include temporally slashing salaries, grounding most of its passenger flights and deferring the delivery of the last batch of the A380 superjumbos.
Still, profit for March was more than 1.5 billion dirhams ($408 million) lower than expected and the group lost over 3.4 billion dirhams in revenue that month, it said in its annual report published last week.
Emirates already decided last year to pare back its A380 order, kicking off a sweeping fleet review at the carrier, with the superjumbo ceding its role as the linchpin of a strategy that made Dubai the leading hub for flights around the globe. Airbus announced at the time that A380 production would end in 2021.
The state-owned airline’s fleet comprises 115 Airbus A380s and 155 Boeing Co. 777.
By Layan Odeh and Siddharth Philip