Update (March 14, 2020): Both Emirates and Etihad have now said they will suspend all flights to Italy for at least two weeks beginning March 14.
Etihad Airways will continue to operate a full flight schedule to Italy despite the country being placed into a Coronavirus lockdown. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called on the Italian people last night not to travel unless absolutely essential as he extended the so-called COVID-19 ‘Red Zone’ nationwide and warned: “There is no more time… Our future is in our hands.”
Italy has recorded the highest number of Coronavirus cases in Europe with numbers surpassing 9,000 and 463 deaths recorded as of Tuesday. Fellow UAE-based airline Emirates will also continue to operate some flights to Italy, although the carrier has taken the decision to drastically scale back its schedule.
Emirates will suspend its daily flight between Dubai and Venice from March 12 to March 31, while flights to Milan will be slashed by two thirds.
“We have temporarily reduced the frequency of our daily flights to Milan from three to one. This remaining daily flight will continue to operate as EK205/206 from Dubai to Milan, but will not operate onward to New York, as this sector has also been suspended from March 11 until April 3,” a spokesperson for the airline explained.
Emirates’ usual three daily flights to Rome will also be trimmed back to once daily but services to Bologna will continue as normal.
Despite the unprecedented lockdown, travellers are still allowed to fly to and from Italy. However, residents must be able to account for their movements and must provide a self-declaration that they are fit to travel before they’re allowed to board a plane.
Dozens of airlines have axed flights to Italy, with the likes of British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Ryanair, Norwegian and easyJet saying they had temporarily suspended services to the country because of the lockdown.
Sources at both Etihad and Emirates claim dozens of cabin crew are now being placed in self-quarantine after exposure to cases of suspected or confirmed COVID-19. No cabin crew for either airline has been found to have the virus.
A similar situation is unfolding in Qatar with several Qatar Airways crew said to be quarantined, while Korean Air confirmed it had quarantined 60 flight attendants who came in contact with two crew members who were found to have COVID-19.
In North America, Europe and elsewhere in Asia, airlines have been contact-tracing crew who worked flights with passengers found to have Coronavirus. Many have been asked not to come to work for at least 14-days. The World Health Organisation (WHO), however, maintains that the risk to flight crew is low, even if operating a flight with a passenger who has the virus.
Emirates said today that it had been given special dispensation by Saudi authorities to operate around eight flights to Saudi Arabia over the next few days. The charter flights will repatriate Saudi nationals who have been stranded after flights between the UAE and Saudi Arabia were suddenly stopped by an emergency decree.
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.