Etihad Airways will resume some regularly scheduled flights from June 10 with the airline initially serving just 20 destinations in Europe, Asia and Australia. Etihad will also start offering more connections through its Abu Dhabi hub after the UAE authorities lifted a ban on transit passengers. The new connecting services builds on its recently launched links from Melbourne and Sydney to London Heathrow.
The airline has been largely grounded since late March after the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority banned regularly scheduled flights to and from the UAE including all transfer flights. Since then Etihad has been allowed to operate a small number of special “repatriation” flights but non-UAE residents are still barred from entering the country and transit services have only recently been approved.
Etihad had hoped to resume normal scheduled passenger services in mid-May but was forced to indefinitely delay that relaunch as officials battled to contain the novel Coronavirus outbreak in the country. Abu Dhabi recently announced a ban on movement to or from the emirate in another effort to combat the virus but officials later clarified this would not stop international passenger flights.
From Europe, the airline will operate flights to and from the following countries: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris and Zurich.
From Asia and Australia, the following destinations will be served: Jakarta, Karachi, Kulala Lumpur, Manila, Melbourne, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.
Earlier this week, the airline also launched its ‘Etihad Wellness’ initiative which details the steps the carrier will take to protect passengers from COVID-19. Along with cabin crew wearing full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including face masks, gloves and disposable protective smocks, the airline will also introduce ‘Wellness Ambassadors’.
To start with, the ambassadors will only be available to speak to passengers via Etihad’s call centre in order to provide advice and support. The programme will then be expanded to Abu Dhabi International Airport and finally, a dedicated cabin crew member will take on the role onboard Etihad flights. The airline said the crew member would be responsible for health and wellness without specifically detailing their duties.
A similar initiative has been introduced by Turkish Airlines where a crew member will enforce social distancing rules and ensuring passengers comply with face mask rules. Meanwhile, Emirates has redeployed its ‘Cabin Service Attendants’ to ensure onboard lavatories are cleaned every 30 minutes.
Despite the small increase in flights, Etihad says it has been forced to make hundreds of employees redundant because of the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a memo sent to staffers last week, Etihad said it couldn’t sustain the current employee headcount.
“We must face the reality that, at least for the immediate future, we’re going to be operating at a reduced capacity. It’s becoming clear that as the COVID-19 crisis has continued, we’re simply unable to sustain the current number of employees we have.”
“Current forecasts suggest passenger demand won’t return to pre-crisis levels until 2022, we’re facing large potential revenue losses and there is no clear view as to when we’ll be able to resume ‘normal’ operations,” the memo continued.
As of August 2019, Etihad had just over 20,500 employees including nearly 5,000 cabin crew and 2,184 pilots. Etihad was serving 84 destinations in 49 countries before the pandemic struck. Its fleet of nearly 110 aircraft remains largely grounded.
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.