Just hours after Dubai-based airline Emirates said it would in fact keep some limited service to 13 key countries and territories, the UAE’s National Emergency and Crisis and Disasters Management Agency announced it would close all airports in the country to all inbound, outbound and transit passengers. Both Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways will now be forced to ground their entire passenger aircraft fleets.
The decision, which comes into effect on Wednesday, will also impact the operations of flydubai and Air Arabia.
The total flight ban will initially last for two weeks in what the authorities said was part “of the precautionary measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19.” The ban may be extended after the initial two week period.
If flights are allowed to resume after two weeks, “additional screening” would be put into effect to protect passengers and crew the agency said.
“Additional examination and isolation arrangements will be taken later should flights resume in order to ensure the safety of passengers, air crews, and airport personnel and their protection from infection risks,” said the statement from the Disaster Management agency.
On Sunday, Emirates said it would suspend all flights indefinitely because “the world has literally gone into quarantine”. Several hours later, the airline then said it would continue flying to a small number of countries to assist in the repatriation of their citizens.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Group, said the airline would attempt to operate these flights for as long as was feasible but this now looks to be out of the question.
In a statement, the airline wrote: “As per the UAE government’s directive, Emirates will temporarily suspend all passenger services for two weeks starting from 25 March 2020. We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused to our customers and travellers. These measures are in place to contain the spread of COVID-19, and we hope to resume services as soon as feasible.”
Reacting to the news, Etihad’s chief executive Tony Douglas said that as the national airline of the UAE the airline stood in “full support of the UAE government’s decision, and are confident that we’re well prepared to weather the commercial and operational impact this suspension will have on our services.”
The UAE government also announced the closure of all malls and shopping centre, with the exceptions of supermarkets and pharmacies, for at least two weeks starting Wednesday, March 25. The government also urged everyone to stay at home “unless it’s absolutely necessary to get essential supplies.
“The UAE law on communicable diseases, which includes fines and jail terms, will be enforced against all violators”, a statement on the official WAM news agency continued.
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.