Update March 23: In a fascinating update (read for the latest), all Emirates passenger service, as well as Etihad will shut down indefinitely from March 25th, due to a UAE Government restriction on all scheduled or unscheduled passenger flights until further notice. It’s been a wild 24 hours.
Update March 22: Emirates was backtracking on suspending “all” flights, before today’s announcement.
With a home city in Dubai that’s largely a transit hub, it seemed as if Emirates may be able to weather the storm better than other airlines, which depended on tourists crossing a border. That’s no longer the case on Sunday March 22nd, with a stunning announcement from Emirates that all passenger flights would be suspended until further notice, by March 25th, 2020.
And then less than two hours later, they changed their mind, and many flight routes will remain. A day later, it’s no flights at all, after the UAE Government suspended all flights.
The UAE has taken drastic measures in recent days to curb health concerns, including suspending travel for all citizens currently in the country, and not allowing non citizen, permanent residents to return from abroad.
Here was the original tweet from Emirates…
Today we made the decision to temporarily suspend all passenger flights by 25 March 2020. SkyCargo operations will continue. This painful but pragmatic move will help Emirates Group preserve business viability and secure jobs worldwide, avoiding cuts. https://t.co/fkQ59ExVxA 1/3 pic.twitter.com/j7ytftExn2
— Emirates Airline (@emirates) March 22, 2020
As an exclusively international airline, Emirates decision falls in line with trends elsewhere. United has now cut all but Mexico and select cities from its international flying, and most airlines have now suspended at least 90% of long haul routes. Still, an entire shut down is wild.
Incredibly, Emirates says it will cut salaries but will not pursue job reductions at this time, which makes the move admirable, if it holds true. His highness, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and CEO of Emirates Group issued the following statement…
These are unprecedented times for the airline and travel industry, but we will get through it. Our business is taking a hit, but what matters in the long run is that we do the right thing for our customers, our employees, and the communities we serve. With the support and unity that we have seen from our employees, partners, customers, and other stakeholders, I’m confident that Emirates can tackle this challenge and come out stronger.”
A lack of coordination between nations around the world led to surprise border closures, which caught both passengers and airlines off guard. With so much uncertainty around once certain journeys, the airline experienced a dramatic drop in demand, and rather than burn through cash on empty planes, has focused on its people, and providing long term viability.
This could not have been an easy move, but in the long run, it may prove an admirable, if not utterly confusing one…