Dnata’s travel division suffered a 95% slump in sales in the six months to September 30 as Covid-19 brought travel to a virtual standstill.

Revenue from the Emirates-owned tour operating business fell to $26 million from $488 million for the same period last year.

The division reported negative underlying total transactional value sales of $67 million for the first time, after a positive contribution of $1.6 billion in the same half in 2019.

“This reflects the significant refund volume and pay-out in cancelled customer bookings mainly during the beginning of the pandemic,” Emirates Group said.

Dnata travel UK brands Gold Medal and Travel 2 are in the process of being merged.

The overall Dubai-based organisation reported a loss of $3.8 billion for the six months, down from a $320 million profit a year earlier, as revenue fell 74% to $3.7 billion.

This was the first half year loss recorded in more than 30 years.

Emirates airline contributed $3.4 billion in half year losses with dnata’s business units losing a total of $396 million against a profit of $85 million.

The group’s workforce was cut by 24% to 81,334 by September 30 in line with the company’s expected capacity and business activities in the foreseeable future and general industry outlook.

“Emirates and dnata continue to look at every means to protect its skilled workforce, including participating in job saver programmes where these exist,” the company said.

Group chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said: “We began our current financial year amid a global lockdown when air passenger traffic was at a literal standstill.

“In this unprecedented situation for the aviation and travel industry, the Emirates group recorded a half-year loss for the first time in over 30 years.

“As passenger traffic disappeared, Emirates and dnata have been able to rapidly pivot to serve cargo demand and other pockets of opportunity. This has helped us recover our revenues from zero to 26% of our position same time last year.”

He added: “No one can predict the future, but we expect a steep recovery in travel demand once a Covid-19 vaccine is available, and we are readying ourselves to serve that rebound.

“In the meantime, Emirates and dnata remain responsive in deploying resources to serve our customers and meet demand.

“We have been able to tap on our own strong cash reserves, and through our shareholder and the broader financial community, we continue to ensure we have access to sufficient funding to sustain the business and see us through this challenging period.

“In the first half of 2020-21, our shareholder injected $2 billion into Emirates by way of an equity investment and they will support us on our recovery path.”