Qatar Airways is planning to cut a significant number of jobs in its staff due to the health crisis of the COVID-19 disease that is hitting the world. A pandemic that has already left hundreds of thousands dead and millions affected around the globe, in addition to a severe global economic crisis that is impacting many sectors, including aviation.
The Qatari flag carrier officially informed its workforce, including cabin crew members, to prepare for the lay-offs.
Qatar Airways, headquartered in Doha, is one of the few international airlines still operating scheduled flights and is among the big three in the Gulf region, along with Emirates and Etihad Airways; they focus on travel between the eastern and western parts of the world. Despite its size, Qatar Airways indicated last March that it was depleting its cash reserves and that it was forced to seek assistance from the state.
The company's director general, Akbar al-Baker, said in a leaked email that the number of workers laid off would be "substantial" and that cabin crew members would also be included, according to information gathered by the AP agency.
"The overall picture for our industry is discouraging and many airlines are closing or significantly reducing their operations," Akbar al-Baker said in the e-mail, which was dated Sunday. "Now, we have to face a new reality, where many borders are closed, which means that many of our destinations are closed and planes are parked as a result, with no prospect for immediate positive change," the executive said.
In a statement sent to the Associated Press on Wednesday, Qatar Airways confirmed its decision to carry out the layoffs. "The unprecedented impact on our industry has caused significant challenges for all airlines and we must act decisively to protect the future of our business," the official statement said.
Although Qatar Airways, in the words of Al-Baker himself, announced that the airline intends to rehire staff as soon as possible, once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.
Qatar Airways began operations in 1994 and has a fleet of over 200 aircraft. Its main hub is located at Doha's newly built Hamad International Airport and it competes directly with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Dubai-based Emirates airlines, the latter also being state-owned, that also face the difficult economic situation caused by the health emergency of the coronavirus, which has led to social confinement and distancing measures that directly affect air traffic due to the impossibility of travelling and the closure of airports in many parts of the world.
The situation is complicated in the global aviation scene. Nearly two out of three commercial airline aircraft worldwide remain idle while waiting for global air traffic to recover
Around 16,000 aircraft from hundreds of airlines on five continents are not in operation and are still waiting for their turn stranded at airports and aviation logistics centres waiting for a return to normal.
This is the direct result of the almost total halt in scheduled passenger air traffic imposed by governments to prevent the spread of COVID-19 disease, the consequences of which are leaving a very heavy economic blow to airlines worldwide.