Emirates Doesn’t Have Many A380 Pilots Left

Filed Under: Emirates

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it seems increasingly likely that Emirates won’t be flying a majority of its A380s for quite a while. That has been reaffirmed this week — first the airline terminated over half of its A380 pilots, and now it put even more A380 pilots on unpaid leave, with the possibility of termination at the end of 12 months.

Emirates is gradually resuming operations

Emirates has historically operated the world’s largest Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 fleets. The Dubai-based airline is the only one in the world that has loved the A380 — after all, it ordered nearly as many A380s as all other airlines combined.

Emirates has been hit hard by the current pandemic, as have all airlines. While Emirates has started resuming operations, its current schedule is just a shell of what it once was, given reduced demand and border restrictions.

As Emirates has resumed operations, the focus has primarily been on flying 777s, rather than A380s. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you consider that the A380 offers way more capacity than is needed right now.

Emirates’ A380 fleet is currently 114-strong, and there has been lots of talk about the possibility of Emirates prematurely retiring dozens of A380s. While we still don’t have any confirmation on that front, one thing is for sure — not many A380s will be flying in the next 12 months.

Emirates is primarily flying Boeing 777s at the moment

Emirates has few A380 pilots remaining

The Gulf carriers in general have been tight-lipped about the number of employees that they’ve laid off, put on unpaid leave, etc. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you consider that:

  • The airlines are government owned, and generally aren’t very transparent about a lot of matters
  • The airlines don’t have unions that can also publish this info

While we know the exact number of employees who have been furloughed at major US airlines, the same isn’t true in the Gulf.

Nonetheless I’ve been able to roughly piece together Emirates’ current pilot situation. These are all estimates and I can’t guarantee anything is 100% accurate, but I feel pretty confident about being in the right range.

Emirates has already laid off ~1,400 pilots

Before the pandemic, Emirates had roughly 4,300 pilots. At this point I’m told that Emirates has roughly 2,900 pilots remaining, meaning 1,400 pilots were laid off.

To be clear, those are actual layoffs — the pilots weren’t furloughed, and won’t be recalled if demand recovers. It’s my understanding that they wouldn’t even get preferential treatment if they apply in the future.

So, how were those layoffs split between 777 and A380 pilots? For context:

  • Emirates has 114 A380s and 140 777s
  • The planes operate roughly similar missions (ranging from flights of a few hundred miles, to 7,000+ mile flights), so the number of pilots needed per aircraft is roughly equal (this accounts for the fact that long haul flights sometimes have three or four pilots)
  • Therefore you’d expect that under normal circumstances, ~45% of Emirates pilots would be A380 pilots

After the above layoffs, Emirates’ pilot composition by fleet is roughly as follows:

  • ~75% of pilots are on the 777
  • ~25% of pilots are on the A380

The fact that Emirates specifically laid off A380 pilots clearly suggests the airline sees those planes returning to service at a much slower pace.

Emirates has disproportionately laid off A380 pilots

Emirates now put A380 pilots on unpaid leave

While a large percentage of A380 pilots were laid off a few months ago, there’s now more. This week Emirates has put a majority of its remaining A380 pilots on 12 months of unpaid leave. Again, there’s no transparency here, so we don’t know actual numbers.

The best estimate I’ve heard is that at this point Emirates has well under 200 A380 pilots left, with a majority of those being UAE nationals (who weren’t subjected to layoffs).

For the pilots who have been put on unpaid leave:

  • Pilots won’t receive any of the typical allowances, with the exception of an educational support allowance (for kids) and a housing allowance, for those who choose to stay in Dubai
  • Pilots will retain their flight privileges and health coverage
  • Even at the end of the 12 months, there’s no guarantee of being recalled; the company will do a business review, and then decide whether to put the pilots back into service or terminate them

So, if Emirates has at most 200 A380 pilots remaining (and this is on the high end of the estimates that I’ve heard), how many planes could it fly with that?

  • Very rough math, but I’d assume that each A380 “frame” needs about 18 pilots, based on there previously being 2,000 pilots for 114 A380s
  • That suggests that Emirates will be able to fly at most ~11 A380s in the next 12 months
  • It’s possible pilots could operate a few more planes than that, given that most of Emirates’ A380 routes right now aren’t long haul, so have two pilots rather than four

Like I said, this is all very rough math, so don’t quote me on any of these individual numbers. However, the moral of the story is that Emirates has very few A380 pilots at this point, which also suggests that very few A380s will be flying over the next year.

Don’t expect to see many A380s flying in the next year

Bottom line

A while back Emirates terminated a majority of its A380 pilots, which at a minimum suggests that Emirates won’t fly most of its A380 fleet for a while. However, this week the airline has taken it to the next level, putting a majority of its remaining A380 pilots on a 12 month leave, at the end of which the pilots will either be recalled or terminated.

While we don’t have any exact numbers, I would estimate that Emirates now only has enough pilots to maybe operate 10-15 A380s.

Personally I have a hard time seeing a scenario where Emirates doesn’t prematurely retire some A380s, especially with the airline expected to take delivery of newer (smaller) planes in the coming years.

Are you surprised by just how few A380s Emirates plans on flying?

  1. “ The airlines are government owned” is not what you usually say when talking about the subsidies they receive…

  2. @Abey: if it’s fully owned by the government it’s not a subsidy. It’s a capital injection. And what’s so different from the subsidies to carriers across the world? Special circumstances and such.

  3. I am glad to have experienced the Emirates 1st class once and use the shower. It may never be repeated.

    Actually very sad what China has done to the world

  4. So they hire them back when things are better. What other job can a A380 plot get with the same pay and hours. They will gladly come back.

  5. I too, splashed out once on first class, and was lucky with an upgrade from J for a second treat. This aeroplane is just magnificent, and Emirates used all its features to the max. The travel experience was second to none.

    I am pleased to note that the pilots retain their accommodation, and health care at least for a year even though on unpaid leave. Let’s all start to look on the bright side.

  6. Ben – Your calculation is fairly correct possibly a tad bit more but around the same. Emirates as always isn’t a very open airline and no matter what is horrendous to its staff – as is showing now. To customers they are nice but to its staff not so much

    I wanted to share the letter but couldn’t attach. Ben have you seen it?

  7. Agreed, What other job can a A380 plot get with the same pay and hours. They will gladly come back.

  8. At the start of 2020 none of these A380 pilots would have imagined what was in store 10 months down the line. Thats the uncertain nature of this world.

    I feel sorry for these Pilots especially the expats as the locals would be covered or observed well by Emirates. Imagine the amount of loans these Pilots would be having to repay that they would have taken for their Pilot training. There would be other monthly commitments for them and also to look after their families. These A380 Pilots need to re train for an another aircraft type to get back to work. That is another cost.

    This COVID has been brutal on the industry as a whole.

    I hope to see a documentary on the effects of this Pandemic on the Pilots and Cabin Crew and other ground staff who got laid off.

  9. Even the B777s have way more capacity then what’s required at the moment, but Emirates haven’t got anything smaller. Other airlines are grounding their B777s in favour of B787s and A320s

  10. You say ” the pilots weren’t furloughed, and won’t be recalled if demand recovers. It’s my understanding that they wouldn’t even get preferential treatment if they apply in the future”. I believe your absolutely wrong in this matter as it would cost Emirates a fortune yet alone massive amount of training effort and time for brand new pilots to join. Would be cost effective and quicker to rehire and retrain redundant Emirates pilots. The hole idea why Emirates fired so many pilots in the first place is because of cost.

  11. As an expatriate you are a guest worker there to make up the numbers, you are not an immigrant and must always have it at the back of your mind that you can be let go at an instant.best you have a plan b in your mind.
    In fairness to ek during the last aviation big turn down they did not lay off a single member of staff where many others did.this is the first time in ek’s history they have ever laid people off.in fairness what else can they do?

  12. @ Godfrey Lawrence, 380 structure doesn’t suit for a freighter conversion. So mostly the 380s will be scrapped. On the other hand 747s can be converted to a freighter.

  13. Lots of the A380 pilots laid off are the senior most expats who have being there at least 15 years .
    Emirates and Qatar laying off pilots with most amount of CTC ( cost to company ) . Most airlines give pilots a service pay component in their salaries . Additionally the senior most pilots tend to TRI/TRE’s so there is that allowance . And older pilots tend to be medically Unfit for temporary periods more . Hence more expensive to keep . World over with most companies junior most pilots get furloughed aka reverse seniority . There are no unions allowed in the middle East and the pilots have no whatsoever say in things . Some asked the Airlines they would even fly free as long as they get to maintain their ratings and licenses . And it’s a situation we have to just accept .
    In the long term a pilot who is 55 years and above will struggle to get jobs in the future . Smaller tighter run airlines till 2025 and these chaps will be 60 above with airlines being reluctant to hire older pilots . Really sad …But these are such times..

  14. Vikram Bhojwani, the discussion is about Emirates, not Qatar. No emerati will be either furloughed, laid off or made to take twelve months UPL. This “offer” of UPL is disgraceful. Carrot dangling comes to mind yet some will take this for the sake of their family thinking that perhaps they can weather the storm.

    I call you out with your abject lack of proper/correct information regarding the present sad situation at Emirates, with the exception of no unions for Pilots are allowed in the Middle East.

    Having spent nearly 15 years in the M/E with my husband being a TRE (me TCC) We were ever aware of being guests in their Country. We worked to the best of our abilities (as with all at Emirates) and decided to leave when we chose. We were fortunate yet not greedy in thinking “just one more year” to add X amount to our provident fund.
    The guys at Emirates whilst on 12 months UPL will not have any company money added to their “provident”. There is no future guarantee of the Company actually being operational.

    Ben, perhaps you could put your “feelers” out regarding how many operating crew will be left?

  15. I’m glad I was able to experience the A830. I wanted my parents to experience it back in March but that flight was canceled. The B777s are nice but not nearly as nice as the A830s.

  16. Hello Qatar’s mercenary, stop posting things that makes it too obvious that you have been paid for this article.

    We all know Emirates is No. 1 and will remain No. 1. A strong management, clear strategy and a smart government.

    Whatever condition Emirates has, it’s better than all the status of airlines in the WORLD post Covid-19.

  17. I was working to emirates as an cabine crew for 6 years .I have been made redandant on 14 august 2020. So far i did not get my end of service money . I have sent several emails – No relpy
    I gave my everythings to emirates but in the end the fire me with any reason . F**ck

  18. @Kanza

    As a (former!) frequent passenger on EK, I can vouch for all of your colleagues with whom I had the privilege of being cared for on board. It is a testament to the success. Thank you for your 6 years of faithful service.

    However, to say that you have been “fired” is a little extreme. The planes aren’t flying, the routes don’t exist any more. It is sad that your career ended (hopefully temporarily) but don’t take it so personally. Every airline has made dramatic staff cuts due to this awful pandemic.

    Without sounding patronising, I do wish you well and for the sake of your employment, and all my future travel plans, I do hope this dreadful worldwide situation will end sooner rather than later. But I fear, perhaps not.

  19. The future of 4 engine aircraft is now limited to cargo only. Passenger flights will all be on twin engine planes in the future. Why run the big inefficient 4 engine units hoping you can fill them and even if you can they are nowhere near as fuel efficient as the 787 or A350 for costs on passenger per mile covered. This has been a wake up call for the airlines and the worlds method of flying will almost certainly change forever. Engine technology had been an issue in the past, hence 4 engine monsters for trans oceanic travel, that has all changed now with better engine components. Boeing had the correct vision of the future when it designed the Dreamliner, it can always fly full and when fully booked passengers will need to book the next available plane.

    It’s a shame for the pilots who have trained so long for the A380 planes but the skill is directly transferable to the A350 and this plane is in great demand.

  20. It is tough time for expat employees who lost their jobs rather than emirates which has strong government support. They will pour money to keep it afloat at any cost. But what about laid off employees?

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