Long-haul airline Qatar Airways announced it would lay off workers on Wednesday, as the coronavirus pandemic has effectively crippled the regional aviation industry.
Qatar Airways is releasing people
The Doha-based carrier gave no estimates for the number of workers that would be laid off by the company, one of the three main airlines created to focus on East-West travel in the Persian Gulf region. An internal memo, however, from the CEO of the airline that leaked online said the amount would be “substantial” and include members of its cabin crew.
On Wednesday Qatar Airways sent a letter detailing the layoffs to The Associated Press.
“The unprecedented effect on our industry has created huge obstacles for all airlines and we need to move aggressively to secure our business’ future,” the statement added.
Both Qatar Airways and Al Baker said that once global aviation emerges from the pandemic, the airline hoped to rehire personnel quickly. Later Wednesday the airline said it hoped that by the end of May it would grow around 30 routes still flying to over 50 and 80 by the end of June. The airline said it flew into over 160 destinations a day before the pandemic.
Qatar Airways, which began operating in 1994, has a fleet of more than 200 aircrafts. They fly out of the newly built Hamad International Airport in Doha. It is vying with Etihad Airways based in Abu Dhabi and Emirates based in Dubai. Two other state-owned airlines currently facing the desperate economic situation caused by the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes.
Qatar Airways isn’t prepared for Covid-19
As with other Gulf airlines, Qatar Airways has flown repatriation flights since the pandemic. As well as stepped up its cargo operations. But the pandemic has chewed away the aviation industry to the extent where in a recent conference call. Emirates President Tim Clark warned where “85 percent of all airlines will be insolvent. This is within two to three months” without government assistance.
Already before the pandemic, Qatar Airways was facing difficulties. A coalition of four Arab countries launched a Doha boycott in 2017 over a diplomatic dispute that persists today. It’s disrupting the ability of the airline to enter critical markets and overfly those nations.
On the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar is a small, energy-rich nation that juts out into the Persian Gulf like a thumb. The nation is home to the large Al-Udeid Air Base, hosting about 10,000 US soldiers. It is the forward headquarters of the Central Command of the U.S. military.