The Dubai-based carrier has reduced schedules and canceled flights to most of China, Iran and Bahrain as consumer demand plummets, leaving the airline with more resources “than it needs,” Reuters reports.
“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,” Chief Operating Officer Adel al-Redha said in a statement Tuesday.
As of March 2019, Emirates, the Middle East's biggest airline, reportedly employed over 100,000 people, including 4,000 pilots and 2,100 cabin crew staffers.
The novel coronavirus has disrupted travel equating to about a $100 million loss for airlines in the Middle East, according to The Associated Press.
“It’s a demonstration of how hard the industry’s been hit by flight cancellations and closing borders,” said Muhammad Albakri, the International Air Transport Association’s regional vice president for Africa and Middle East.
A spokesperson for Emirates was not immediately available for further comment.
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.
Stateside, 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.