The Emirates Group is to temporarily suspend most passenger flights by Wednesday but will continue to operate to the UK and some other countries ‘until further notice’.

The airline had announced that all passenger flights would be suspended this week in response to the coronavirus  pandemic while cargo operations would continue.

However, in an updated statement, Emirates said it had decided to continue some passenger flights as long as borders remain open and there is demand. This follows requests from governments and customers to support repatriation efforts.

Flights will continue to the following countries: the UK,  Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, the US, and Canada.  Passengers are urged to check their flight status on the airline’s website.

Meanwhile, Emirates has pledged not to cut jobs, but has introduced a ‘basic salary reduction for the majority of employees’ of between 25% to 50% for three months, excluding junior staff, in a bit to cut costs.

Dnata, which is part off the group, is reducing its operations, including temporary closure at some locations where demand is low.

Emirates said it had aimed to maintain passenger flights for “as long as feasible to help travellers return home amidst an increasing number of travel bans, restrictions, and country lockdowns across the world”.

It says its fleet of Boeing 777 freighters will continue to transport goods including medical supplies across the world.

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Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Group, said: “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.

“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. By Wednesday 25 March, although we will still operate cargo flights which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended all its passenger operations. We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services.

“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.”

Cost reduction measures introduced by the Emirates Group include:

  • Postponing or cancelling ‘discretionary expenditure’
  • A freeze on all non-essential recruitment and consultancy work
  • Working with suppliers to find cost savings and efficiency
  • Asking employees to take paid or unpaid leave in light of reduced flying capacity
  • A temporary reduction of basic salary for the majority of Emirates Group employees for three months, ranging from 25% to 50%. Employees will continue to be paid their other allowances during this time. Junior level employees will be exempt from basic salary reduction
  • Presidents of Emirates and dnata – Sir Tim Clark and Gary Chapman – will take a 100% basic salary cut for three months

Sheikh Ahmed added: “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. 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.

“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.”

Emirates is also encouraging its employees not to travel unless essential and to work from hom where possible as well as implementing “enhanced” cleanings and disinfecting measures on its aircraft.

When on duty, cabin crew and airport teams have been given hand sanitizer and masks ‘where required’.

Sheikh Ahmed said: “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. With the support and unity that we have seen from our employees, partners, customers, and other stakeholders, I’m confident that Emirates can tackle this challenge and come out stronger.”