After a slower than expected demand in air travel following a second wave of the deadly COVID-19 medical emergency, Etihad Airways has decided to ground its Airbus A380 fleet indefinitely. Simultaneously, as the superjumbos announcement on Wednesday, the Abu Dhabi-based airline also warned cabin crew in an internal memo that there would be layoffs soon.
According to newswire service Reuters, who saw the internal memo, the cabin crew was told that they would be notified by email about whether they were being furloughed within the next 24 hours. Still, there was no mention of how many people would lose their jobs. The move follows a similar email sent to Etihad pilots warning them that some jobs were up for review.
Etihad wants to become a smaller airline
Etihad employees were told that the cuts were because of coronavirus and the massive downturn in the number of people taking to the skies. The state-owned carrier said it had decided to become a much smaller airline and subsequently reduce staffing levels. A source from the non-alliance airline told Reuters that as many as 1,000 cabin crew jobs could go, including many senior cabin crew and cabin managers. As of February 2020, Etihad employed around 4,800 cabin crew. The source also told Reuters that Chief Executive Tony Douglas had told staff its A380s would continue to be parked “indefinitely.”
According to the aviation website, Planespotters.net Etihad has a fleet of ten Airbus A380-800 aircraft that have been out of service since March because of the global pandemic. When questioned about the A380s, a spokeswoman for Etihad confirmed the news about the superjumbos. She declined, however, to comment on the job losses.
Airlines cannot make plans
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said that with every country having a different border and quarantine rule, it hampers the airline industry recovery as they cannot make plans. As the airline industry faces its worst-ever crisis, a new second wave of the coronavirus in Europe has added to the uncertainty.
Etihad raised eyebrows last week when it said it planned to become a mid-sized airline focused on its long-haul widebody aircraft fleet. This news immediately raised questions about what would happen to the airlines 20 Airbus A320-200s and its ten Airbus A321-200s.
Etihad cabin crew have been vaccinated
In other Etihad related news, it has emerged that some cabin crew working for the Gulf carrier have been vaccinated for COVID-19. The Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine is currently in Phase III trials in several countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Called the Sinopharm vaccine, it was developed in partnership with the Abu Dhabi artificial intelligence company Group 42. The vaccine is now available to frontline workers and those deemed a high risk for catching the deadly virus.
Etihad cabin crew member Rochelle Crossley told Australia’s Channel Nine News that she had received the vaccine once frontline workers were given the green light. When speaking about the vaccination, she said:
“The fear of getting the virus outweighed the fear of having the vaccination. Everyone has different side effects but mainly a sore arm. I had a bit of a cough after the first vaccine, but the second one, I didn’t have anything.”
The Sinopharm vaccine is given to recipients in two doses, and so far, there have only been mild side effects.
What do you think about Etihad’s decision to keep its A380s grounded? Do you think this will be temporary, or will they be replaced? Please tell us what you think in the comments.