The United Arab Emirates has finally decided to suspend flights to mainland China except, controversially, Beijing which will continue to be served by both Emirates and Etihad Airways. The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority said the ban was part of new “precautionary measures” to combat the new Coronavirus.
As of Tuesday, there have been nearly 20,000 reported cases worldwide with the vast majority reported in mainland China. So far, there have been 426 deaths attributed to the SARS-like illness.
Five cases of the novel Coronavirus have been reported in the UAE – all are said to have visited Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak before travelling to the Middle East.
“We continue to put our confidence in the Chinese Government’s efforts to control and contain the situation,” the statement from the GCAA stressed. The announcement came on the same day that the UAE said it stood in solidarity with the Chinese government over its handling of the outbreak.
The decision will now mean that Etihad’s services to Chengdu and Shanghai will be suspended until further notice. Emirates, meanwhile, will be forced to suspend its flights to Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Both Etihad and Emirates will continue to serve Beijing but passengers are being warned to turn up to Beijing airport between 6-8 hours before departure for “comprehensive medical screening” before being allowed to board the aircraft.
Cabin crew will be given additional protection on these flights, including the use of face masks, disposable gloves and antibacterial hand gel.
The GCAA said the decision to suspend flights came about after studying and analysing the current conditions on the spread of the virus. Late last week, Etihad said it would continue to operate flights to mainland China despite the World Health Organisation declaring the Coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.
Over the weekend Qatar Airways said it would suspend mainland China flights because of “operational difficulties” with rostering crew. Both Saudi Arabian airlines and Oman Air followed suit shortly after.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.