In the last few days, the Dubai-based airline Emirates has filed inventory changes in the Global Distribution System (GDS) indicating the carrier may restart flights to nearly 140 destination before mid-June. Some key markets may resume from May 1, while other long-haul destinations are set to come back online throughout June, July and August. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Emirates served 158 cities across 84 countries and territories.
The airline, which is the largest international airline in the world, was forced to suspend all regularly scheduled passenger flights on March 24 to stem the spread of the novel Coronavirus but has since been allowed to resume very limited operations. Emirates restarted flights to five destinations but these services were primarily allowed to repatriate tourists stranded in Dubai.
Three of those five destinations – Brussels, Paris and Zurich have already been suspended once again, while services to Frankfurt and London Heathrow are set to stop from April 19.
But plans to suddenly ramp up operations once again from May 1 may not actually come to fruition. Filing inventory changes is more a wishlist of where the airline would like to fly and is not an actual published schedule. Emirates will need to win approval from the UAE authorities to restart services and officials haven’t given any indication of when that might come.
Emirates’ chairman and chief executive, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum also acknowledges that the airline’s route network can only start to resume “with the easing of travel restrictions” around the world.
“While we hope to resume full operations as soon as possible, we acknowledge the challenges faced by many cities in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak,” Sheikh Maktoum explained. “We continuously review the situation and will announce any additional services as they become available.”
Many countries are doubling down on border closures, with countries like Australia and New Zealand suggesting that success in eradicating the virus at home won’t necessarily mean a relaxation of tough entry restrictions. With the UAE was fighting to contain the spread of COVID-19, it’s unknown when the government might allow transit passenger to start passing through Dubai International Airport (DXB) again.
If Emirates’ plan does come to fruition, the airline would restart services to 28 destinations from May 1. Destination earmarked by the airline includes Amman, Bangalore, Bangkok, Sydney, Boston and Cape Town. Some of these cities are, however, currently under strict lockdowns which are subject to extensions well into May.
For now, these inventory changes should be taken with a very large pinch of salt. It’s highly likely that the vast majority of Emirates’ route network will still be suspended throughout May and most the airline’s fleet grounded indefinitely.
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.