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Emirates, one of the world’s biggest long-haul airlines, laid off hundreds of pilots and thousands of cabin crew on Tuesday as it manages a cash crunch caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and more job cuts are planned, five company sources said.

Aviation is one of the industries worst hit by the fallout from the virus outbreak, with airlines forced to lay off staff and seek government bailouts.

More redundancies were expected at Emirates this week including both Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 pilots, the sources said on the condition of anonymity.

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The workforce of 4,300 pilots and nearly 22,000 cabin crew could shrink by almost a third from its pre-coronavirus levels, three of the sources said.

Without giving further details, an airline spokeswoman told Reuters some employees had been laid off.

“Given the significant impact that the pandemic has had on our business, we simply cannot sustain excess resources and have to right size our workforce in line with our reduced operations,” she said.

A promise by the Dubai government to provide Emirates with new equity would allow it to “preserve its skilled workforce,” the state airline said on May 10.

It has since laid off employees, which sources previously told Reuters were trainee pilots and cabin crew.

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Outgoing President Tim Clark has said it could take four years for the airline to resume flying to all of the 157 international destinations it served before the pandemic. It has a fleet of 270 A380 and 777 jets.

The airline has operated limited, mostly outbound services from the United Arab Emirates since grounding passenger flights in March but is due to restart some connecting flights after the UAE last week lifted a suspension.

Emirates has also extended pay cuts until September, and in some cases deepened the reduction to 50 per cent, according to an internal email on Sunday.

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