16 April, 2020

Saudi Arabian Airlines expects disruption to last the whole year

 State-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines -Saudia - does not expect flight operations to return to normal until the end of the year and is asking some cabin crew employees to suspend their contracts until then, according to internal emails seen by Reuters.

Saudi Arabia has suspended international flights and pilgrimages to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, a major source of foreign visitors to the kingdom.

“Flight operations shall not be returning to normal, until December 2020, expectedly,” the airline said in two separate emails to cabin crew in which they were requested to suspend their contracts from this month until the end of the year.

It was not immediately clear how many cabin crew employees were being asked to suspend their contracts.

The Jeddah-based carrier, also known as Saudia, did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment outside normal business hours on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia on March 29 indefinitely extended a two-week ban on international flights, though Saudia has since operated some services for foreigners to leave the kingdom.

Saudia carries more than 34 million passengers each year on a fleet of 142 narrow-body and wide-body aircraft to over 95 destinations, according to its website.

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, which suspended passenger flights last month, on Thursday said it would gradually resume operations from May 1.

Governments around the world have imposed strict entry restrictions, including banning departure of citizens and entry of foreigners, and some countries, including Saudi Arabia, have halted most air travel. It is unclear when many of those restrictions will be eased. 

(Reporting by Marwa Rashad and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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