Coronavirus: Flydubai prepares to ground all passenger aircraft; eyes high cargo demand

42 planes to stay idle from Thursday, expanding airline's grounded aircraft to 56

  
A Boeing 737 MAX aircraft bearing the logo of flydubai is parked at a Boeing production facility in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 11, 2019. Image used for illustrative purpose.

A Boeing 737 MAX aircraft bearing the logo of flydubai is parked at a Boeing production facility in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 11, 2019. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/David Ryder

The UAE’s budget carrier, flydubai, will be grounding all its passenger aircraft for a period of two weeks effective Thursday evening to comply with the government’s decision to halt all flights.

The commercial fleet, which will include at least 42 Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft, will expand the airline's list of groundings, with 14 of its Boeing 737 MAX already pulled out of service about a year ago following two crashes involving the same plane.

The additional idle fleet will be placed under a large-scale maintenance work at Dubai International and Al Maktoum International Airports.

The UAE announced on Monday it will temporarily stop all inbound, outbound and transit flights from Wednesday as part of precautionary measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. The suspension will be subject to review after a period of two weeks.

Emirates airline has already confirmed it will stop all passenger flights from Wednesday, in response to the UAE directive.

According to Ghaith Al Ghaith, chief executive officer of flydubai, the “unprecedented situation” has prompted the airline to reallocate its internal resources to critical business needs, including providing support and care of its fleet.

“We are seeing this period as an opportunity to recalibrate our business and our unrelenting focus is now on laying the groundwork, together, for a smooth full return to service in due course,” Gaith said in a statement sent to Zawya.

The airline also said that its cargo operations will continue, adding that it is currently studying the “the opportunity of cargo in its cabin, as well as in the hold of its aircraft,” amid strong global demand for cargo.

In March 2019, flydubai grounded its 14 MAX jets after two fatal crashes that killed hundreds of passengers. The global MAX aircraft groundings have impacted the carrier's revenue growth.

Work continues

With more idle fleet coming their way late this week, flydubai's maintenance and engineering personnel will have additional aircraft to take care of.

"With its 14 grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, flydubai already had an extensive engineering and maintenance programme underway involving 18 hours of maintenance per aircraft per week. With the announcement of the flight restrictions, the engineering and maintenance programme is being expanded to its fleet of 42 Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft," the airline said.

Other employees will also continue their work to support operations, with some working in different offices and others from their homes.

“[The] workforce has been allocated into teams who have relocated across its different offices to continue to support its operations. A number of teams are working remotely from their homes,” the airline said.

Flydubai’s temporary suspension of operations will take effect from Thursday, March 26 at 11:59 pm until Thursday, April 9, at 11:59 pm. On Monday, the airline said it has already temporarily closed its business lounge in Terminal 2 at Dubai International.

Airlines have been among the hardest hit since the coronavirus, which has now infected more than 300,000 people, erupted in China in late December.

Emirates had earlier asked its tens of thousands of staff, including cabin crew and pilots, to take unpaid leave, as the company finds ways to cut outgoings and stay afloat amid the crisis. This week, it announced it would be closing most of its routes and cut staff salaries by up to 50 percent.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) appealed for governments in the Middle East and Africa region on Thursday to provide emergency support, to save airlines from folding up.

According to IATA’s analysis, companies in the air transport industry in the UAE alone could lose some $2.8 billion in revenues, while more than 163,000 jobs are at risk.

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; Editing by Mily Chakrabarty)

cleofe.Maceda@refinitiv.com

#CORONAVIRUS #FLYDUBAI #CARGO #TRAVEL #AVIATION

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