Emirates to suspend all passenger operations from March 25

Emirates on Sunday announced a temporary suspension of all of its passenger operations, as the spread of the novel coronavirus hammers global travel demand.

Emirates, which runs the world’s biggest airline by international traffic, said it will suspend all its passenger operations but will retain cargo operations from March 25.

“The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the Covid-19 outbreak. This is an unprecedented crisis situation in terms of breadth and scale: geographically, as well as from a health, social, and economic standpoint. 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 6 weeks,” Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said, in a statement.

“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.”

The Dubai-based airline said the outlook for travel demand remains weak across markets in the short to medium term and that it will take the following measures:

  • A temporary reduction of basic salary for the majority of Emirates Group employees for three months, ranging from 25 per cent to 50 per cent. Employees will continue to be paid their other allowances during this time. Junior level employees will be exempt from basic salary reduction.
  • Emirates President Tim Clark and Dnata President Gary Chapman will take a 100 per cent basic salary cut for three months.
  • Postponing or cancelling discretionary expenditure.
  • A freeze on all non-essential recruitment and consultancy work
  • Working with suppliers to find cost savings and efficiency

“The Emirates Group has strong liquidity, with a healthy cash position but it is prudent that it take steps to reduce costs at this time. Emirates remains committed to serving its markets and looks forward to resuming a normal flight schedule as soon as that is permitted by the relevant authorities,” Sheikh Ahmed said.

Emirates began its service to the Maldives in May 1987 using a single Boeing 727 aircraft.

With three times daily non-stop service between Dubai and Male, Emirates has since become a major airline operating to the Maldives and a preferred airline for tourists visiting the island nation from far corners of the world, especially Europe.

The airline has been operating four daily services to Male from October 27, 2019 to March 28, 2020, in accordance with winter schedules. It also deployed its latest Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft, fitted with the ‘Game Changer’ First Class suites, on its Dubai-Male route from June 1, 2019.

Emirates joins a host of other international airlines with operations to the Maldives that are scaling back their operations amidst the global economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has announced plans to adjust frequency on its Maldives service to one flight per day from March 23.

Bangkok Airways has announced similar cancellations and frequency reductions.

The global coronavirus outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.

On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago. Eleven more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels — were later identified.

However, three out of the 13 have made full recoveries, whilst the rest are being treated at designated quarantine facilities.

Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.

The public health emergency declaration has allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including a ban on inter-island travel of tourists, including for excursions and between resort islands.

A nationwide shut down of all guesthouses and city hotels has also been ordered. Spa facilities located on inhabited islands have also been closed.

The Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from some of the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Visitors from three regions of Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), two regions of France (Île-de-France and Grand Est) and two regions of South Korea are also banned from entering the country.

All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran had also been cancelled.

Cruise ships and foreign yachts had also been banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.

The island nation had installed thermal screening cameras at its international airports.

Quarantine facilities, including designated islets from the 1,192 islands that make up the archipelago, had been established.

Photo: The National, UAE

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