Only two Emirates Airbus A380s remained parked on the runway apron at Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) as of September 10, suggesting the airline has placed back into service 12 of the aircraft standing idle at the location in July due to what officials blamed on a summer traffic slowdown. However, the airplanes’ return to operations appears also to signal an improvement in pilot staffing after an apparent shortfall earlier this year.
Emirates president Tim Clark addressed the reports of a pilot shortage in May. “[We’re] a tad short of pilots but should be all right in September or October,” he said at the time.
In June, Etihad Airways offered its pilots two-year assignments with Emirates, in a move made public in a leaked internal memo. “Such programs enable airlines to effectively manage their pilot resources,” an Etihad spokesman told Abu Dhabi-based English language daily The National in an emailed statement dated June 22.
“We are working with Etihad on a secondment program for some of their pilots,” an Emirates spokeswoman told The National. “This is a common practice in our industry [and] gives airlines more flexibility in managing their pilot resources.”
The proposed secondment would see select Etihad pilots transferred to Emirates for two years, during which time they would go on a leave of absence from the Abu Dhabi airline, receive their salary and benefits based on the Emirates package, and retain their Etihad job ranking until their return.
Dubai business aviation insiders concerned by a dwindling number of landing slots at DXB told AIN this week they expect Emirates to hit full capacity at Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the coming months, as the business season—when business owners return to Dubai as the summer heat wanes in September and October—gathers momentum.
In May, an Emirates spokeswoman told AIN that airlines commonly park aircraft to manage capacity. The perennial low season of May, June, and July coincided with Ramadan this year, exaggerating the typical lack of demand for air travel.
“In 2014, when runways at Emirates's DXB hub needed to be closed for repairs, the airport also chose the same time period to conduct repairs, to minimize traffic impact,” she told AIN. “Similarly, next year one of Dubai airport’s runways will need renovation and again, it is this same time period when the works are being planned.”
Secondments among Gulf-based carriers as well as other airlines happen sporadically. In 2015, Etihad gave pilots on secondment from other airlines, some from its failed investments in Air Berlin and Air Serbia, the opportunity to fly its A380s and Boeing 787s after extensive retraining.