Qatar Airways Plans ‘Substantial’ Job Losses

Middle East carrier Qatar Airways is planning what’s being described as ‘substantial’ job cuts in response to the global travel downturn caused by coronavirus. The Doha headquartered airline issued a company notice warning cabin crew to prepare for redundancies, as the impact of the disruption takes its toll on Qatar’s financial health.

Qatar Airways flying over Doha
Qatar Airways has warned of ‘substantial’ job losses. Photo: Getty Images

Substantial job cuts

Doha-based Qatar Airways could be planning a number of job cuts as the impact of the coronavirus disruption begins to bite. The airline, one of only a handful continuing scheduled services during the crisis, said in March that a number of its flights were operating around 50% empty and that it would, eventually, need to seek government support.

In the notice to cabin crew, seen by Reuters, chief executive Akbar al-Baker said,

“We have to face a new reality, where many borders are closed, rendering many of our destinations closed and aircraft grounded as a result, with no foreseeable outlook for immediate, positive change.

“The truth is, we simply cannot sustain the current numbers and we need to make a substantial number of jobs redundant – inclusive of Cabin Crew.”

The notice further said that affected employees would be paid their contractual dues, and those who were unable to return to their home countries immediately would be provided with housing and a living allowance.

Akbar al Baker
Qatar CEO Akbar al-Baker warned cabin crew to prepare for the worst. Photo: Getty Images

The airline’s take

Simple Flying reached out to Qatar Airways for further information. A spokesperson for the airline told us,

“The unparalleled impact on our industry has caused significant challenges for all airlines and we must act decisively to protect the future of our business. As a result, Qatar Airways can confirm that the airline will make a number of roles redundant due to the impact of COVID-19.  Any job loss is regrettable, and we will be working closely with all affected employees to offer our full support during this difficult time.

“We are extremely proud of the professionalism, dedication and loyalty of all members of the Qatar Airways family and thank them for their contribution in making the airline the global leader it is today. When circumstances improve, it is our intention to enable employees to rejoin when possible.”

Qatar Airways cabin crew coronavirus
Qatar Airways said it intends to enable employees to rejoin when possible. Photo: Getty Images

No details have been revealed regarding the number of jobs looking to be cut. The Qatar Airways Company employs more than 46,000 people and is owned by the Government of Qatar. The airline previously flew to more than 170 destinations with 234 aircraft but has had that schedule cut to just 35 destinations as a result of the disruption caused by the pandemic.

A focus on cargo

Qatar Airways has been operating a number of repatriation flights to bring its citizens home, and had even launched new flights to Brisbane in a bid to plug the gap left by other airlines. However, the airline could not ignore the impact of the coronavirus forever, and last month cut its capacity by 75%.

However, the airline has not been taking a break; rather, it has switched its focus to cargo operations, working overtime to keep the supply of goods moving around the world. TR Business reports that, over the past month, Hamad International Airport (HIA) and Qatar Airways set a new record for cargo movements.

Qatar Airways cargo coronavirus
Qatar Airways has been pushing cargo operations during the travel downturn. Photo: Getty Images

During April, the airline moved more than 100,000 tonnes of medical aid and other supplies to regions hit hardest by COVID-19. That’s the equivalent of around 1,000 fully loaded Boeing 777 freighters.

Its freight division, Qatar Airways Cargo, hit a new record for cargo flights. In just one day, it operated 78 freighter flights and 69 freight only passenger flights for a total of 147 cargo movements.

While it’s great to see the airline working to keep nations supplied with the goods they so badly need, that will come as little comfort to those facing the loss of their jobs today.