Emirates to eliminate most passenger flights, airport services

Planes lined up at terminal in Dubia.

Emirates, the largest long-haul airline in the world, said Sunday it will temporarily terminate most passenger service on Wednesday, March 25, because travel restrictions imposed by governments make it virtually for people to fly. The news comes one day after indicating it would cut capacity by 65%.

And within hours of announcing Saturday that it is shutting down virtually all international flying in April, United Airlines (NASDAQ: UAL) said it is reinstating six daily operations to major cities around the world.

The quick changes reflects just how fluid the coronavirus pandemic is and how companies are adapting on the fly to the dynamic situation. 

Dubai-based Emirates Group also said that dnata, it’s huge air services subsidiary, will significantly reduce catering, ground handling and other services, and close operations at some locations where demand is very low. Emirates Cargo, which operates a large fleet of Boeing 777 freighters, continues to operate, as there is heavy demand from the private sector and governments to move critical medical supplies, food stuffs, and service parts for vehicles, equipment and machinery. 

“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,” Chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in a statement. “As a global network airline, we find ourselves in a situation where we cannot viably operate passenger services until countries reopen their borders, and travel confidence returns.

“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.”

Emirates will continue to operate passenger flights to  the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, the U.S.  and Canada to support repatriation of travelers, until further notice.

Comprehensive cost-reductions include a three-month reduction in base pay for most employees ranging from 25% to 50%, with junior level employees exempt from the reduction. 

“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,” Al Maktoum said.

United said it will continue daily flights between Newark/New York and Frankfurt, Germany; Newark/New York and and London; Newark/New York and Tel Aviv; Houston and Sao Paulo; San Francisco and Tokyo-Narita; and San Francisco and Sydney, Australia to provide a lifeline for people who are displaced and need to get home. 

It also reinstated flights through March 27 between Newark/New York and Amsterdam, Munich, Brussels and Sao Paulo; Washington Dulles and London; and San Francisco and Frankfurt. Flights between San Francisco and Seoul will continue through March 29.

In related news, Delta Cargo (NYSE: DAL) said it will embargo all shipments originating and arriving at Orlando International Airport in Florida between March 22 and March 25. New bookings will not be permitted and shipments will not be accepted. It’s the one of many ways that airlines are having to adjust cargo operations in the face of limited flight schedules. Some airlines are limiting specialty cargoes or warehouse hours.