The United Arab Emirates is a few days into a full two-week ban on all passenger flights in an attempt to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. Emirates, which is the largest international passenger airline in the world, along with Etihad Airways and the likes of flydubai and Air Arabia have all been forced to ground their aircraft in an unprecedented move that took many by surprise.
But now the UAE government has already had to rethink the flight ban because, despite plenty of warnings, there are still Emirati citizens stranded around the world with no way of getting back home.
Authorities had been urging students and other nationals to get back to the small Persian Gulf country ahead of the shutdown but it looks like some citizens either didn’t heed the warnings or were simply unable to get flights in time. The situation was made even worse when officials brought the flight ban forward by over 24-hours with immediate effect.
Some 48 citizens have already been cleared to enter the UAE – many of whom will have to be repatriated on special charter flights with just a dozen or so passengers on each flight. More passengers are likely to be cleared in the coming days and all will need to be tested for Covid-19 upon arrival and then quarantined in a hotel for 14-days.
A spokesperson for Emirates told The National that the airline was working with “local immigration authorities, Dubai Police and co-ordinating efforts with several consulates and embassies to find repatriation solutions or facilitate special dispensations for entry into the UAE to help stranded passengers at Dubai International Airport.”
Ahead of the travel ban, Emirates flight EK5 bound for London Heathrow Airport was the last flight to depart Dubai, while EK262 from Sao Paulo was the last flight to land back into Dubai at 10:35 pm on Wednesday evening.
Emirates is allowed to continue operating cargo flights and will run some passenger planes as cargo-only services alongside its fleet of Boeing 777 freighters. Over the next week, Emirates says it will start preparing for full passenger service resumption which will come “as soon as it is possible to do so”.
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.