Emirates has been forced to deny rumours that the airline was about to suspend all flights effective March 17, saying there was “no truth” to the rumours that started circulating across social media. Unlike neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates has so far resisted calls to completely close its borders to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
The UAE currently has around 85 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, with the latest case reported on Sunday in a retuning expat worker who had been on leave in India.
Yesterday, the small Persian Gulf country also suspended all visas to all foreigners, with the exception of diplomatic passport holders. The suspension does not apply to visas which have already issued or to visas issued on arrival – although those passengers will be subject to screening.
The authorities in Abu Dhabi also announced the temporary closure of main tourist attractions in the area, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Ferarri World, Warner Bros and Yas Waterworld. The attractions have been closed until at least the end of March.
Both Emirates and fellow UAE-based airline Etihad Airways have been frantically adjusting their flight schedules as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world. Today, Etihad announced a slew of new changes including:
- Rome suspended until April 30
- Istanbul, Beirut, Casablanca and rabat suspended until March 31
- Jakarta to be reduced to one daily
- Seoul to be reduced to four-weekly
- Bangkok reduced to double-daily
In a statement, Etihad said the decision to cancel more flights was being made for the “safety and convenience” of its customers and staff and “to minimise operational disruption during this period”.
Emirates has also suspended flights so far to 30 destinations across its routes network. More are likely to follow in the coming days.
In response to a travel ban imposed by the Trump administration on 26 European countries, and now including the United Kingdom and Ireland, Emirates introduced thermal screening on passengers on all outbound flights to the United States. The airline says it is working to expand the programme across all flights departing Dubai.
If any passenger is found to have a higher than normal temperature, they’ll be pulled to one side and subjected to further testing before being allowed to board a flight.
Earlier today, all 289 passengers on an Emirates flight bound for Dubai from Kerala were removed after a UK-national onboard was found to be infected with Coronavirus. The man had apparently been tested for COVID-19 yesterday but attempted to get on the flight with a group of 17 others.
A spokesperson for the airport said the entire group had been detained and anyone who had contact with the passengers – including security guards and check-in agents have been ordered into home isolation
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.