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Sun 16 Aug 2020 03:14 PM

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Air Arabia plans to rebuild network, workforce after Covid lockdowns

CEO Adel Ali revealed Air Arabia today is operating around 45 percent of its fleet

Air Arabia plans to rebuild network, workforce after Covid lockdowns

Ali said that Air Arabia today is operating around 45 percent of its fleet of 50 aeroplanes in a mix of scheduled, repatriation, charter, and cargo flights across its operating hubs in the UAE, Morocco, and Egypt. Image: ITP Media Group

Air Arabia lost just under 20 percent of its staff through redundancies as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, but CEO Adel Ali told Arabian Business plans are in place to build the workforce back up as airports across the world gradually reopen and the industry takes tentative steps towards recovery.

As previously reported, the Sharjah-based budget carrier, which employs around 2,000 people, was forced to make cuts earlier this year in what was described at the time as a “last alternative”.

Ali said: “We didn’t cut much. Less than 20 percent of our people went off at the time, most of whom were out of the country and decided to take a severance package and move on.”

The company headed into this year on the back of record profits recorded in 2019, which totalled $272.24 million, an 80 percent increase over the previous year.

However, following the onset of Covid-19 and the enforced lockdowns and movement restrictions, the carrier reported a net loss of $46m for the first half of this year with turnover dropping 53 percent to $278m, compared to $592m in the same period last year.

As moves were implemented by the government to curb the spread of coronavirus in March, including closing the country’s borders and grounding all passenger flights, Air Arabia served a total of 2.48m passengers from all of its four hubs in the first half of 2020 – a drop of 57 percent compared to H1 2019.

“We had a period where we had absolutely no operation apart from less than five percent of our aeroplanes were doing a few cargo flights just to help out in moving goods and foodstuffs to needed places,” said Ali.

In April, the IATA – the International Air Transport Association – predicted that global airlines need $200 billion of state support to survive and warned that if nothing is done, only about 30 of the nearly 700 airlines around the world will still be in existence.

However, with restrictions slowly being lifted, airports reopening and aeroplanes returning to the skies, the industry is seeing the first small shoots of a recovery.

Ali said that Air Arabia today is operating around 45 percent of its fleet of 50 aeroplanes in a mix of scheduled, repatriation, charter and cargo flights across its operating hubs in the UAE, Morocco, and Egypt.

Air Arabia is looking forward to ramping this up as restrictions continue to ease, the CEO said. 

“We’ve cut a small portion of the employees and we stored all the aeroplanes that were not required for the time being. But as we roll in and more airports reopen, for sure our intention is to enhance the staff required and enhance all the activities," Ali said.

“Our objective is obviously to get as quickly as possible back to normality. Those will only be determined by how this pandemic will slow down and how the travel movement will develop, which personally I think it will gradually come back, people want to travel and people are resilient.”

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