Emirates’ Nerve-Racking Approach To Layoffs

Filed Under: Emirates

Airlines around the world are currently laying off employees due to lack of demand, and that’s heartbreaking. So many airline employees will tell you that working for an airline is a lifestyle rather than a job. As a result, for some people, getting laid off in the airline industry isn’t just like losing a job, but it’s like losing your lifestyle as well.

While all layoffs at airlines are terrible, I can’t help but feel especially bad for Emirates employees at the moment…

Would you rather be laid off in-person or by email?

I’m lucky that I’ve never really had to work for someone else, and therefore I’ve never been formally laid off before.

I suppose there are two main ways to inform people they’re being laid off — you can tell them by mail/email, or you can tell them in-person. I would assume that it would be considered more thoughtful and personable to inform people in-person, give them a chance to ask questions, etc.

Different airlines are taking different approaches in this regard. While some airlines are primarily laying off staff by email (or via “internal correspondence”), Emirates is laying off staff in-person, which you’d think would be more thoughtful, but they’re going about it all wrong, in my opinion.

Emirates’ headquarters in Dubai

Emirates’ approach to in-person layoffs

About a week ago I wrote about how Emirates was starting the process of mass layoffs, including of flight attendants, pilots, and ground handlers. However, I can’t help but feel like Emirates is going about this all wrong:

  • The airline is having several hundred employees per day come into the training college to inform them that they’re being laid off
  • A day before employees are supposed to appear, they receive an email asking them to attend a “business update” meeting the next day
  • This would be a fine approach if everyone attended a meeting the same day, but the problem is that no one knows how many people are going to be laid off, as these emails keep going out daily

As you can imagine, Emirates employees have been glued to their email inboxes for the past week (and counting), waiting for the dreaded email.

To say that Emirates employees are stressed right now would be the understatement of the year. It’s believed that a few thousand people have been laid off at this point. The company hasn’t clarified how many people will be laid off in total, and no one knows how many more emails will be sent out — will they see these for the next few days, next few weeks, or what?

There have even been some cases where employees received emails about attending a meeting, and then shortly thereafter received a follow-up email saying to disregard.

Employees are very much comparing notes, and it would appear that the only change to the protocol for laying off in the past week has been that they’ve started putting croissants in the rooms in which they’re telling people the bad news.

For what it’s worth, it’s not like there are a lot of insights at these meetings either. Based on what I’ve heard, they aren’t providing any explanations for why people are being laid off (beyond the current business environment), and there are no discussions about potentially rejoining in the future.

Emirates is laying off thousands of employees

Bottom line

If you have any friends in Dubai or at Emirates, send them your good vibes. Layoffs across the industry are incredibly sad, and I can’t help but feel especially bad for Emirates employees, given how management is going about layoffs.

Emirates employees are just waiting for that dreaded email, several hundred of which go out per day, and no one knows when the emails will stop.

Given that everyone knows what’s going on, this seems like an especially cruel way to go about layoffs. I’m not sure what exactly the airline is thinking — presumably they know who they’re going to lay off.

Clearly employees would rather just know right now whether or not their job is safe, rather than being kept in limbo until they get a dreaded email, which only goes to several hundred people per day.

To those at Emirates, hang in there!

  1. Lucky, as you said you have worked for yourself a different side of the street. In the past 30 years I have along with my business partner run an engineering/construction company through some severe downturns and its hard to lay off or furlough employees. The bigger one gets the harder it is to have that “small company” feel let alone communications. I can only imagine how hard it is for a company as large as EK to manage it’s employees its akin to a train that left the station, once you’re up to steam stopping becomes that much more difficult. The engineer doesn’t always know what the conductor is doing, the same applies to large corporations, so when we see things like this until one walks their shoes ——

  2. This is really a sad moment, and I hope that these employees can find new jobs as soon as possible and settle down gradually.

  3. Sad for all the hard working, professional, friendly and experienced cabin crew (who happen to me older in general)

    However firing is very well deserved for for the growing group of instagram stars wannabe who happened to work for Emirates as cabin crew.

    You probably recognize the ones I am referring to: constantly boasting about their world travel lifestyle on social media, acting as drama queens / models, posing with glasses in 5 star pools.

  4. Absolutely. I would hate to be in this same position as these employees given the stress. I think an email saying they will be laid off to those who will be and then including different times to meet with Emirates’ for questions would be much better.

  5. Another thing to note is that most/all workers for the ME3 are expats that have to live in their carrier’s hub. Getting laid off from Qatar / Emirates / Etihad doesn’t just mean you’ve lost your job, you may have lost your privilege to live in that Qatar / Dubai as well.

  6. Stanley – so their crime is enjoying travel, when they have a job that involves a lot of travel? And for this they deserve to lose their job? You’re sounding like a crank here.

  7. Ben, Not sure what the answer is for such large groups of people that don’t really have direct managers in a traditional sense. Be interested to hear how you think they should handle.

  8. Hate to break it to you, but whether it is right or wrong, that is a classic tactic for mass layoffs. I have been at 2 different companies in corporate america where employees get an vague calendar invite and then get laid off on that call/meeting. Might be heartless, might be wrong, but it’s the way things are done. Nothing special here.

  9. Stanley – As long as they did their job as cabin crews, why does it matter if they choose their off hours posting on social media, with glasses in 5 star pools? How does that affect your inflight service in the slightest?

    If you don’t like strangers “acting as drama queens” on their personal time in ways that does not affect you in any way, maybe you need to stop following these “model” on social media and mind your own business, and get some therapy on your bitterness and resentment issues.

  10. Love listening to people say “just the way things are done”.

    You wanna live in that kind of world, that’s your choice. Some of us think we’re capable of better. It’s a drop in the bucket, but the odds of me ever taking another Emirates flight have just vanished.

  11. @Lucky – what do you expect them to do? you have no clue how this stuff works like you said. super irritating to read a blog from your perspective when you have no basis to weigh in on what is right or wrong. sick of it. just like you weighing in on the Chinese delivery flight. you got absolutely obliterated in the comment section and then completely edited your post.

    you have to understand that rumors spread like wildfire through orgs. that go through layoffs. you have to do it quickly and efficiently as company wide moral hits all time low and no one knows if they are safe or on the chopping block. would you rather have them just send an email to the people who are getting fired that says “termination meeting at 1400”???????? who would show up? clown.

    c’mon man. enough.

  12. What is the alternative? To disregard public health concerns and bring 6,000 people to a sports arena and tell them they are getting laid off? I am very sorry for all airline employees. It is terrible to lose a job now but o genuinely don’t know how Emirates can handle mass lay offs.

  13. @dan – the odds of you actually paying money for a flight on Emirates prior to reading this article were already near zero. but hey, you wanna live in a world where people consistently virtue signal, that’s your choice.

  14. I worked for a bank back in 2008 that had rounds of mass layoffs every 3-4 weeks for several months. It was unsettling as we didn’t know who would be let go each round but I guess that’s the norm for any large company. A few managers were in the tough position of laying off their teams in the morning only to learn in the afternoon that they were being let go too. I recall watching UP IN THE AIR around the same time and I agree doing it in person is much better than doing it by email.
    All they need to say is something like “Your position has been eliminated.” That’s it. You’ve been laid off. End to it. If there are any questions, it would be about severance.
    I do feel bad for those being laid off at Emirates. I hope part of the severance package is a membership at a consulting firm that provides them with resources on how to update a resume, how to be a better interviewer, how to better negotiate salary, etc. I recall that was one of the best perks of my severance package back then.

  15. There is no good way to break the bad news. I’m reminded of the George Clooney movie…

    The cloud with the silver lining is that many of those furloughed will be rehired when the virus is conquered.

  16. i agree with surfer. This is a sad situation, but what EK is doing seems fairly reasonable given the circumstances. I’ve been laid off via phone call before, and i can say i would have felt better if someone would have looked me in the eye and given me the news (treated me more like an individual rather than #27 on a call list he had to get through that afternoon)

  17. I think the main issue here is not that firings are in order but the way in which employees were selected: not per seniority but through “other unspecified parameters.”

    Pilot friends of mine with 10+years seniority have been let go while much more junior colleagues have not been affected.

    However those remaining are all a nervous wreck as they do not know who is next: it can’t be predicted.

    Do you still call this situation fair? Or sane?

  18. Sadly this has become normal for more than just airlines. Uncertainty over your job, is a worry for many. The process is not dissimilar to Emirates. The challenge at the moment is it can’t be done in person (as most companies mandated in the past). Not saying it is ok, but it is sadly very common.

  19. @ali

    For the sake of conversation… AFAIK, pretty much every airline pays their pilots based on the years of experience with the company. That is, senior people make more than junior people. If you have to lay people off and you don’t have union contracts to prohibit it, why would you not lay off your more expensive staff? That just makes business sense.

    In the USA, unionized pilot groups have all negotiated for junior people to get laid off first. This makes for a catch 22, because when business is in the toilet, your unit costs actually go up because you’re getting rid of the cheap labor.

    People bash airline unions, but one thing you get is an understanding of who’s getting laid off and in what order. Otherwise? Who knows.

  20. Dan: I have no problem with your suggestion. If the powers that be decide that the seniors have gotta go then so be it. But as it stands the the selection seems to be totally random: seniors are being selected but so are juniors, from 18 months in the company to 21 years.

    That is what makes the whole thing seem so cruel. Were EK to state the criterion used then everyone would at least understand, if not agree, when their turn came.

    We as pilots are not blind to what is happening in the industry. I work for a different airline and have accepted a 65% pay cut. I also understand that redundancies may also be in order. If it comes I will be sad and upset but at least I know it will have been done fairly (in my airline’s case, out of seniority).

    EK staff are hurting right now mostly because no one knows what places you on the let-go list…

  21. @Ali
    Junior pilots probably weren’t selected because they make less money. It is best for a company’s P&L to get rid of the highest paid staff whom in general tend to be more senior. I’m not saying this is humane, but in dire circumstances, companies tend to let go staff with the higher salaries.

  22. Again I must make my point: people are being selected at all levels of pay and seniority: there are very junior pilots AND very senior pilots on the list along with many others at every point of the seniority list.

    This does not seem to be about getting rid of the most expensive pilots. It is also not about firing juniors first.

    That is my point: no one knows what the logic is and that makes the whole situation a lot more stressful that it should be.

  23. @Lucky can you confirm if this has been done on a daily basis since last Tuesday June 9. As far as news goes, layoffs happened on the 9th and 10th and abruptly stopped. I wasn’t aware this has continued again – but the way its handled hasn’t been good.

    Initial criteria was anyone on probation (pilots and cabin crew) – that round took place on May 31.

    Next criteria was anyone that has any “negative” records including sick leave, attendance issues etc.

    Clearly Emirates management have a plan and they need to lay off staff as the numbers are years away from returning. It’s just very sad so many people need to be laid off. Don’t forget its an expat community so they also need to repat them back home.

    Currently all exisitng staff at emirates are already on a 50% salary cut till September and “will be reviewed” for sure.

    Good luck to all at emirates and other airlines in general.

  24. What really sucks about emirates is, for what I’ve heard, is that there is no criteria for who gets fired and who gets to stay. I’ve heard that the terminated only got told it’s because of the whole COVID thing and that they will not be rehired when/if business picks up. Another thing I heard and find very very wrong -business or corporate or whatever- is that employees are finding out what’s going on through social media or gossip rather than through internal communication. Zero respect. Very poor overall management.

  25. My cousin just notified me that he was laid off. He has been a pharmacist with the airline for 25 years and his last day of work will be the end of August. This is a sad time for Emirates and the entire airline industry. Good luck to the industry during these difficult times.

  26. I’ve been on both sides of the desk. It’s not pleasant getting or giving this type of news. I have yet to see a “perfect” way to do it. The way I have done is it is call someone into the office and give them the news point blank, and then turn the conversation over to HR to explain the benefits. It stops any argument.

    I did hear one time of a company that had an automated dial in notification. You called in from home at 8 pm, entered your employee number and the automated response was either come to work tomorrow or don’t come in anymore. Somewhat cold, but it avoided humiliating conversations and long walks out the door.

  27. This isn’t virtue signaling. This is about trying to do better. If that bothers you, that’s your problem not mine.

  28. Reading through the posts brought back memories abour when I had been made redundant a few years ago, not in aviation, but logistics.
    The company (big global player) had gone through various strategic restructurings, then stopped internal restructuring for a year. Then one day out of the blue without any pre-warnings my line manager asked me for a meeting and when we got to the meeting room HR was waiting. Still to this day I do not know by which criteria they did chose whom to make redundant. But I decided that this was not about me or my performance, it was all purely based on financials and strategic decisions, and I was just one of many on a long list. There was zero communication overall and colleagues did not even know what was going on!! As shocked as I was initially, and it took a few weeks to get over the initial shock, at least I had a personal meeting. To do this process purely by email sucks big way.

  29. I’ve so often read these last weeks… I’m not flying X airline again because xyz eg the way they lay-off staff, not issuing refunds, flights were full but expected half empty. I’m not saying these things are right but it seems every airline is getting at least one big thing wrong… so which major airline is actually ok to fly on moral grounds?

  30. @David
    A friend of mine worked for a big pharmaceutical company and during a tough restructuting phase he checked each morning if he was still on the org chart!! No name, no job! Crazy!!!

  31. Panasonic Avionics Corporation fired employees on team meeting and everyone’s mic was turned off by HR and no one was allowed to ask any questions.

  32. Hopefully they get some severance pay. I know most architecture firms in US (which tends to be 20 people or less) when you get laid off, you get zero severance. When economy downturn comes, blood bath begins which comes every ten years without fail. I remember a friend of mine was working in a 200 plus employee design firm. Something happened in the fall of 2008, by spring 2009, they have less than 50 people in their firm. There are very few architects and designers in US that have never been laid off during their career.

  33. @Ali I don’t think this is as hard to understand as you are making it seem. You are saying seniority doesn’t seem to be taken into account as seniors are being let go as well as juniors and people from every level..

    A flight deck comprises of a captain, a first officer and sometimes a second officer (e.g. A380). If you are going to be running less flights you have to think about it as making flight decks redundant. If you were to get rid of all the junior first officers then all you would be left with crews of captains/senior first officers only (expensive) and if you only got rid of the senior pilots then your cabins would be full of junior first officers (unsafe and not possible to fly).

    The same goes for FAs and some senior pursors will have to go as well as junior FAs too.

  34. Agreed Pogonation, also didn’t see why so confusing for Ali. You want a spread of people to retain the balance, not just one group as you will then have an issue in future.

  35. Actually, saying that the senior Pilots are costing the company more money is false economy. Most senior captains no longer have school going children. The younger newer pilots have up to 3 kids at school paid for by the company. This expense is significantly more than the bit extra they pay a more senior pilot. Furthermore, with the current 50% pay cut the step pay difference is much smaller but the school fees are still pretty much the same. You decide who is going to cost more in the next financial year…………..

  36. Pilots & cabin crew made redundant have NOT been given a redundancy package( no separation $) & no one from the company is answering phones or assisting them with flights home. It’s been handled so poorly.


    Quite sometime ago, when visiting an Emirates office, we saw a big mirror and below it was a question.. “Who is our most important person ? “…

    Is that mirror still there..

  38. Oh, I am sorry, did the years of cushy perks and being ****oles with no fear of getting laid off not prepare them for the unemployment line?

    Oh, that’s so cruel!

    On the plus side, they will have a lot of time to post on Twitterface, a red cup in hand.

    Good times.

  39. Whereas Qatar Airways and Etihad try to incorporate their indigenous culture into their brand and corporate DNA (read: standards), I must confess that Emirates never felt Emirati at all. Singapore Airlines tried this back in the early to mid 2000s and put Caucasian women in sarong kebayas, and because of the dissonance in cultural understanding, they were never that good. It was just the pretty United FAs dressed in a Halloween costume.

    Emirates just had this McDonald’s pre-I’m Lovin’ It vibe. It was just inconsistent.

    On a SIN DXB flight, I noticed many non-Arab crew were just wearing the headress wrongly, and revealing hair or wearing the thing flippantly. It does not look good.

    QC went out the window, and it can be difficult for the crew. As an ex SQ FA I can tell you it was just difficult because we had to handle far more passengers per crew member than other types, and the complaints are always those on the A380.

  40. Flyoften, which perks are you referring to? Those people sacrifice a normal life. They rarely if ever are home for the holidays, miss out on their family and friends, miss out on sleep, and miss out on having a healthy immune system in their youth. They work countless hours for free, some days for 24 or more hours on duty in total. From what I imagine, that doesn’t cover all the bases it takes for them to do their job, but the point being is that they give their blood sweat and tears pandering to customers who then just turn around call them “***holes”.

    I’m pretty sure whatever perks they receive are warranted.

  41. The title should say Nerve-wracking. It detracts from the content when there’s a spelling mistake.

  42. Fact : EK pilots are being laid of off (1) they are still in training and money can be saved by not having them in the SIM or because they have (2) bad sickness record (3) poor SIM session scores

  43. I worked for a Fortune 500 company a number of years ago and they just got in the habit of having rolling layoffs… every Monday somewhere in the company a bunch of people would get laid off. It was not a fun time.

  44. i know excellent pilots and cabin crew who were laid off at emirates. some of the pilots were instructors, some were line, but very good ,hard working people, whose experience level and skill will be a loss to the airline. it wasn’t generally about performance, or poor records, but a common theme seemed to be , illness that led to unproductivity for an extended period during employ. one pilot had surgery to repair a broken bone, off for 6 weeks, more than 2 years ago and was laid off. when that pilot turned up, the ineffectual managers were surprised and said, you should not be here, this is wrong. but. having outsourced the decision, with doubtful parameters, there is no recourse. Ek, have made many bad decisions in the method of implementation, and the selection of people to go. in many cases, it is their loss. sometimes. its not all about money, but who are the people that will continue to maintain a high level of safety. is it the new hire. the person who is never sick, or the person who has given extended service. has had minor physical issues, but have contributed positively overall.

  45. It is very very sad to read so many of these comments about EK’s handling of the most sensitive issue of lay-offs.

    All airlines run on PEOPLE who provide the SERVICE, SECURITY, & COMFORT during an otherwise boring flight through the clouds.

    These PEOPLE deserve compassionate care and support from EK. That’s what is lacking here in this particularly poorly managed scenario.


  46. It’s more respectful to be told face to face you are being laid off rather than be notified just by an email.

    Lucky it’s great you’ve been your own boss.

  47. No one knows how long this pandemic will last so how can any company be sure just how many people it has to lay off. Hence staged or weekly redundancies is completely understandable until the position becomes clear

  48. ME3 work on merit. Everyone knows that, rightly or wrongly. So that’s what goes here. It doesn’t make it any easier, and yes, it means loss of job, lifestyle, environment, friends. It’s pretty big, could be overwhelming. It could have been easier if EK had started by asking for volunteers. I know many cabin crew who are coming up to around 5 years’ service and are thinking of going back home. (with a healthy bank account)

    On a lighter note, I was on vacation when employed by a major bank, and received a phone call from my PA to say there were redundancies, but everyone except one had been told. She cared enough to let me know as it looked like me. On return, was told it was her, and I had to tell her. You want to know what stress is????

    It could be better if everyone who posted here were to state their preference if being laid off. It would give a more constructive picture, rather than continual negative comments about how things should not be done. Personally, I’d prefer a face to face, whether informer or receiver.

  49. Well on moral grounds American Airlines is winning. They gave employees a deadline to take voluntary layoff with benefits…or take a gamble and get nothing if you are laid off. 2 days before the deadline they informed those to be laid off so they would have a chance to opt in to one of the voluntary layoff packages….that was damn nice of them…they have heart and they care.

  50. Very unfortunate problem the entire world is facing lay offs start at the bottom, why not at the top as well
    High salaried staff will have a net to fall back but not for the lower levels
    EK was probably paying very high salaries and perks

  51. This is a very unfortunate situation across the globe due to this COVID-19, the spread of which could have been 95% preventable in China!

    It is particularly difficult for airline employees and especially cruel for those with EK who are not being treated with proper dignity and respect. Additionally they are required to live in company apartments with roommates they do not choose and during the COVID lockdown Forced to stay and live on a fraction of their normal pay with barely enough to eat waiting in vain for a restart that probably will result in termination.

    They may chose this challenging profession for various reasons, they give up a lot and candidly deserve to enjoy their limited downtime across the globe and in whichever hotels or venues they desire!!! Any business traveler gets it…

    To Stanley the clown and your vile comments: go try your left hand, maybe it will feel like those strangers you covet that you will never know?

    To EK leadership and HRH: Show some respect and compassion for these people !!

  52. To all those whiners here that complain that only the poor flight attendants or pilots get laid off. EK had laid of more office staff thus far than pilots for example. In addition, don’t forget that a lot of the lower office grades are at the same if not lower salary than flight attendants (base + flight pay). Flight attendants will always presents the single biggest group of employees in an airline, plus their role is directly related the Humber of aircraft in operation. It just makes sense that proportionally more flight attendants loose their jobs. As hard as it is on a personal level, stop complaining about the evil management.

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