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How Emirates airline cabin crews manage their quarantine in Dubai?

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak on March 23th, the Gulf airlines had to suspend their operations. This is especially the case of Emirates airline in Dubai, where it has impacted the lives of its crew members.

The biggest airline in the Middle East officially announced the last 23rd of March, that it was suspending all its commercial flights in the world, in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus. A shock for the company, which carried more than 90,000 passengers last year and is one of the few in its sector still making benefits. An extraordinary situation for the flight crews, forced to remain on the ground. Usually accustomed to flying over the four corners of the globe, the Dubai-based company’s employees also had to reinvent themselves.

 

Wage cuts and quarantines

At the beginning of February, when the airline had to suspend all its flights to China (with the exception of Beijing), all cabin crew had to undergo coronavirus testing after a flight back from Dubai, with a ban on flying again until the results were available. “From that time, we started getting a lot of emails from the management team asking us to be patient and flexible, because our schedules were going to change all the time. A lot of destinations started to be suspended. At the same time, we were told not to listen to rumors and to keep the business as normal”, explains Kareem, a company steward.

 

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This is not a goodbye but a ‘see you soon’ from your Emirates family around the world. With nations closing their borders and going on lockdown, we have had to take the painful yet pragmatic measure of temporarily suspending our flights. Whilst we have done everything possible to maintain crucial air links and get people to their loved ones, there’s nothing more important right now than the health and safety of communities worldwide. This is an unprecedented crisis, and our thoughts go out to everyone affected. We sincerely apologize to all our customers with travel disruptions. We hope to welcome you on board, as soon as feasible. Our customers, Emirates Skywards members, partners, industry peers, employees, well-wishers and the communities we serve are at the heart of everything we do. We thank you for your continued support. We thank our employee teams as well as the UAE government and regulatory bodies who have risen to this challenge and delivered beyond their call of duty. We appreciate your service. We would like to express our gratitude to healthcare professionals worldwide who are at the frontline. You will never be forgotten. We are confident that we will come out of this stronger than ever before. We are in this together. Now is the time for all of us to stay home so that we can take to the skies soon.

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Since March 23, the UAE has asked the national airlines to suspend all their activities. The airline has been responding to this by asking its employees to take unpaid leave and a 25% reduction from their basic salary, in addition to the cancellation of flying hours. A situation that is nevertheless well received by all the staff, like Mohammed, purser, puts it: “We don’t have to complain about in Dubai, even though there is a big difference in our wages now that our flying hours have been taken away and with the basic salary reduction, we don’t have to pay rent because we are housed by the company, and those who live outside have an accommodation allowance. On top of that, we hardly spend anything anymore because we can’t go out anymore.”

However, a further step has been crossed by Dubai authorities since the 5th of April, as all Dubai residents are now subject to a strict 24-hour curfew. On its hand, Emirates has reinforced its vigilance in crew accommodations. Crew members are now required to sign a register in the lobby of their building as soon as they leave, and all exterior visitors are strictly forbidden “if we go out for more than an hour, we receive an email from our manager to remind us that we are not abiding by the laws of the country” says Mohammed.

Employee solidarity on social networks

While they miss the dreamlike layovers all around the world, this quarantine seems to be used by some as an opportunity to get involved in some personal projects, like Sonia, hostess for the past two years, who’s been trying her hand at a new job “I take advantage of my quarantine to work on personal projects in the voice-over field. I don’t think I’ll be doing this job all my life, especially with all these long haul flights, so I use all this free time to prepare myself for the next.”

 

For others, they prefer to stay connected with the rest of the employee community. This is the case of Hakim, a steward, who connects daily to the intranet site to see the new notifications: “Since the beginning of the crisis, many people are very active on the company’s internal website and offer their services to help others, such as yoga or fitness classes for example.”

A very active community on the company’s Instagram account also, where we can see many homages to healthcare workers from cabin crew members and ground staff alike, but also messages of support between employees “looking forward to the day when we can find our wings and fly again”, “it’s just goodbye…” So many marks that testify to their eagerness to get back in the air.