Etihad Airways has told transit passengers hoping to pass through its Abu Dhabi hub that they will be barred from boarding 48-hours ahead of a total flight ban on inbound, outbound and transit flights through the United Arab Emirates. The move, which came into effect on Monday evening with immediate effect will leave thousands of passengers desperately trying to get home stranded with few other flight options available.
Early Monday morning, the UAE’s National Emergency and Crisis and Disasters Management Agency said it would close all airports in the country to all inbound, outbound and transit passengers from Thursday, March 26 in order to prevent any further spread of the Coronavirus outbreak. The decision affects all passenger flights and will last for an initial period of two weeks.
It’s unclear why Etihad has decided to bring forward the ban on foriegn travellers but in a series of Tweets the airline said only UAE citizens and diplomatic passport holders would be allowed to travel on any of its flights until the flight ban takes effect, after which point all flights will be suspended, including to its own citizens.
UAE authorities have appealed for all of its citizens, including Emirati students studying abroad, to return to the country as quickly as possible. Once the travel ban is enforced on Thursday morning only cargo flights will be allowed to enter or leave the country.
“If you are booked on a connecting flight via Abu Dhabi to anywhere else on our network, you will not be able to travel and should not go to the airport,” a statement from Etihad Airways warned passengers.
Passengers who are already in the UAE will continue to be able to fly through Abu Dhabi International airport until 11:59 pm on Wednesday evening.
Tony Douglas, the Etihad’s chief executive said earlier the airline would be standing by it’s “loyal customers”.
“We stand with our loyal customers, who are having to endure disruption and inconvenience to their travel and their daily lives, and we dedicate all our efforts and resources to ensuring we do all we can to assist them with their travel planning during this challenging period,” Douglas said on Monday.
In an attempt to cut costs further in light of the Covid-19 crisis, Etihad imposed a 50 per cent on a number of high-earning employees including pilots. Cabin Crew will also have their pay cut by 25 per cent for an initial period of one month.
The cost-cutting measures are in addition to other measures already taken by the airline including asking staffers to take voluntary unpaid leave and utilise all paid leave.
“I know such measures are inconvenient however, to support our organisation, our actions must be louder than our words. We are a united family as we have always been and, with your support, we will come out of this stronger,” wrote Mohammad Al Bulooki, Etihad’s chief operating officer in a leaked memo sent to staff last week.
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.