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Emirates airline asks staff to take one month unpaid leave amid COVID-19

23:45 | 03/03/2020

The Emirates Group is asking staff to take unpaid leave for up to a month at a time due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

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An Emirates Airline Boeing 777-200LR lands at Mexico City International Airport during its first route from Dubai via Barcelona to Mexico City, Mexico, December 9, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo

The Dubai-based carrier has cancelled flights to Iran, Bahrain and to most of China because of the virus, and countries around the world have placed strict restrictions on the entry of foreigners.

The airline has more resources than it needs as a result of cutting frequencies or cancelling flights to some destinations, said Chief Operating Officer Adel al-Redha in a statement on Tuesday (Mar 3).

"Considering the availability of additional resources and the fact that many employees want to utilize their leave, we have provided our employees the option to avail leave or apply for voluntary unpaid leave for up to one month at a time," he said.

Emirates Group, the state-owned holding company that counts the airline among its assets, has asked staff to consider taking paid and unpaid leave as it seeks to manage a "measurable slowdown" in its business, Reuters reported on Sunday, citing an internal company email.

The group had more than 100,000 employees, including more than 21,000 cabin crew and 4,000 pilots, at the end of March 2019, the end of its last financial year.

Major concerts and events in the United Arab Emirates, an air transit centre that includes tourism and business hub Dubai, have been cancelled or postponed as the coronavirus spreads in the Gulf.

The airline industry's largest global body IATA on Monday urged Middle Eastern governments to provide support to airlines as they try to manage the impact of the outbreak.

Most cases of the new coronavirus in the Middle East have come from travelers who had recently visited Iran. As of Tuesday morning, the coronavirus had infected at least 2,336 people in Iran, while the death toll had risen to 77.

Emirates is not the only carrier to ask employees to take time off because of reduced consumer demand due to coronavirus concerns, as competitors in Europe and Asia have reportedly done the same.

United Airlines is said to be offering 777 and 787 pilots paid leave for the month of April, providing reduced pay instead of no pay. United has also delayed training for a class of 23 new pilots amid the ongoing outbreak.

Waiving flight change fees

With public health officials in many countries advising caution against traveling to regions with high numbers of coronavirus cases, airlines have stepped in to offer waivers for fees and fare differences for travelers who reschedule flights because of health concerns.

American Airlines Group Inc said on Sunday it was waiving change fees on all newly purchased tickets amid declining air travel demand because of the new coronavirus outbreak.

The largest US airline said it would waive change fees up to 14 days before travel for customers who purchase tickets between Sunday and Mar 16.

JetBlue Airways Corp said last week it would suspend change and cancellation fees for new flight bookings between Feb. 27 and Mar 11.

American Airlines shares have fallen 37 per cent since Feb 13./.

VNF/Reuters/Fox News