Emirates Airlines has put on hold the mass lay-off’s of cabin crew and pilots after three crew members reportedly committed suicide. The redundancy meetings were set to continue at Emirates’ crew training facility in Dubai on Thursday but crew members invited for the so-called ‘business update’ meetings were told late last night they had been postponed after news of the tragic deaths started to emerge.
Neither Emirates nor the Dubai police department was able to immediately confirm the reports that have swept through Emirates’ 20,000+ strong crew community. Sources claim three crew members died by suicide in an airline-owned accommodation block in Dubai. One crew member is said to be a pilot.
On Tuesday, it emerged that hundreds of cabin crew and pilots had been ordered to attend meetings where they were informed their jobs were being made redundant and they would be leaving the company in September. In a letter handed to the affected crew, Emirates cited the “severe impact” that the COVID-19 pandemic had wreaked upon the entire aviation industry for the reason behind their dismissal.
Emirates’ chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum is said to have called a halt to the mass dismissals on Wednesday because he was unhappy with how it was being handled. While many crew have had one-to-one meetings, there have been reports of some group dismissal sessions.
Until only a couple of weeks ago, many crew said they had been led to believe that mandatory wage cuts would be enough to prevent lay-offs at the government-owned airline. A spokesperson for the carrier then admitted that “a few” employees would be made redundant without giving any indication of how many would be impacted.
It has since emerged that hundreds of cabin crew and pilots have already been fired as Emirates urgently seeks to slash costs in the wake of the Corona crisis. Some media reports suggest at least 600 pilots have been made redundant in the last couple of days, while sources claim figures of active cabin crew numbers have dropped by over 700 this week.
Previously, sources said Emirates had been working on plans to reduce its workforce by as much as a third. The airline has declined to comment on these figures.
Last year, a member of Emirates cabin crew jumped from the third floor of the airline’s headquarters at Dubai International Airport. The Lebanese crew member was seriously injured in the incident but managed to film himself shortly after jumping from a mezzanine balcony.
A year earlier, a crew member died after jumping from the open door of an Emirates Boeing 777 which was parked on the ground at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. The victim died while being transported to a local hospital.
Crew members who have been made redundant because of the Corona crisis have access to a dedicated phone line for advice and support. Those who are made redundant will also remain in employment for the next three months so that they have time to get their affairs in order. During this time they will have access to medical services offered by the airline as part of their contractual benefits.
Emirates says it could take several years to recover from the massive slump in passenger demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the affected crew members at least, they’ll find they have a wealth of skills and experience that new employers are urgently looking for.
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