Dubai carrier Emirates announced on Sunday it will suspend all passenger flights from March 25 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“By Wednesday 25 March, although we will still operate cargo flights, which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended all its passenger operations,” the airline’s chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum said in a statement.
“We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services.”
Emirates passenger flights normally serve 159 destinations.
The United Arab Emirates on Friday announced its first two deaths from the COVID-19 disease, having reported 153 infections so far, of which 38 people have recovered.
Maktoum said that, until January this year, the Emirates Group was “doing well” against current financial year targets, but “COVID-19 has brought all that to a sudden and painful halt over the past six weeks”.
“The world has literally gone into quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” he said.
The airline also said it will slash basic salaries — by between 25 and 50 percent — of a majority of employees for three months, but will not cut jobs.
“Rather than ask employees to leave the business, we chose to implement a temporary basic salary cut as we want to protect our workforce,” said Maktoum. “We want to avoid cutting jobs.”
The disease first emerged in China in late December and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization earlier this month.
Gulf countries have imposed various restrictions to combat the spread of the virus, particularly in the air transport sector.
The UAE has stopped granting visas on arrival and forbidden foreigners who are legal residents but are outside the country from returning.