Emirates, the UAE’s flag carrier and largest airline, confirmed today that it had offered some of its pilots a 12-month period of unpaid leave. This move is a response to the enormous financial impact that COVID-19 has had on the Middle Eastern carrier.
12 months out of the cockpit
The coronavirus pandemic has caused passenger demand levels worldwide to fall sharply in comparison to previous years. This has had a huge financial impact on commercial aviation as a whole. The current crisis is forcing airlines to look for different ways to make up the revenue lost as a result. Emirates, for example, is set to ask some of its pilots to take a year of unpaid leave.
Local newspaper Gulf News reports that, despite not paying the affected pilots a salary during this period, Emirates will provide support for these employees. It states that, according to a spokesperson for the airline,
“During unpaid leave, the company will continue to provide accommodation, medical cover, and other allowances.”
While the period of unpaid leave is scheduled to last a year, there is a degree of flexibility to this program. For example, Emirates states that there is a possibility it may call the pilots in question back into active service ahead of schedule. This depends on how quickly passenger demand returns to previous levels, among other operational factors.
This is not the first time that Emirates has asked employees to take unpaid leave since the pandemic struck. In August, Simple Flying reported that both it and Etihad had made similar requests to certain cabin crew. However, this was on a more short-term basis (1-3 months).
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Emirates’ other responses to the pandemic
Emirates has been hit hard by COVID-19. As of September, it had already issued refunds totaling $1.4 billion since the crisis began. This has been offset by a $2 billion government equity injection. However, its losses are more than just the aforementioned reimbursements. The losses have led to job cuts across its network, including almost 600 in the UK alone.
Emirates has also experienced operational consequences as a result of the pandemic. For example, over 100 of its Airbus A380 aircraft remain grounded. Furthermore, the carrier announced in September that, of those which are in service, none would be deployed to the USA in its adapted 2020/21 winter schedule.
The pandemic has not been kind to the superjumbo in general. Indeed, last month, Emirates retired its first A380 at the age of just 12.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
Despite its present difficulties, there are some reasons for Emirates to view the future with a degree of optimism. In August, for example, Simple Flying reported that the airline was aiming to operate a full summer schedule in 2021.
Furthermore, the carrier is also set to take delivery of a new Airbus A380 later this month. With such plans on the horizon, here’s to hoping that its pilots can return from their unpaid leave and return to the skies ahead of schedule.
What do you make of Emirates’ decision to ask certain pilots to take unpaid leave? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.