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UP IN THE AIR

Emirates backtracks on a decision to suspend all passenger flights

Emirates has responded to coronavirus pandemic with drastically reduced flights.
REUTERS/Christopher Pike
Emirates has responded to the coronavirus pandemic with drastically reduced flights.
  • Amrita Khalid
By Amrita Khalid

Tech reporter

Emirates, one of the largest airlines in the world, backtracked on its decision today to completely ground its passenger flights.

The company had initially tweeted and published a statement on its website today confirming that it would halt all passenger flights, effective March 25. In an updated statement, the carrier clarified that it would still be operating flights in a limited number of nations as demand allows it. 

“Having received requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travelers, Emirates will continue to operate passenger and cargo flights to the following countries until further notice, as long as borders remain open, and there is demand: the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, USA, and Canada,” wrote Emirates spokesperson David in an email to Quartz. According to Emirates, the “situation remains dynamic” and travelers are encouraged to regularly check updates on the airline website. 

The state-owned carrier, based in Dubai, operates a fleet of 277 aircraft and flies to more than 150 destinations. In the wake of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the airline had been regularly cancelling routes and updating schedules for weeks.

“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,” said Emirates Group chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum in a statement that was posted today on the company’s site before being removed. 

In a now-deleted tweet, the company said that the decision to ground all passenger flights was being made to avoid cuts to its workforce. The Emirates Group has already reduced the salary for the majority of its employees for the next three months, but says it will not cut jobs. 

As nations shut down their borders and bar non-essential travel, the number of planes in the air is steadily decreasing. This week Qatar Airlines moved to cut its services by 75%, Vietnam Airlines suspended all international flights until the end of April, and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) halted most of its passenger flights, temporarily laying off about 90% of its staff. 

The US airline industry, which employs an estimated 750,000 workers, is currently seeking a $50 billion government bailout to address the financial fallout from the pandemic.

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