Direct passenger flights between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are set to resume within the next week for the first time since March when officials in the UAE closed the country’s borders and grounded flights in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Emirates, Etihad Airways and to a lesser extent flydubai have pursued aggressive flight resumption plans in the months since flights to and from Turkey have remained cancelled.
Emirates originally planned to restart flights from its hub at Dubai International Airport (DXB) to Istanbul on June 25 but tickets remained unavailable to book with the airline declining to offer any reason for the continued suspension.
Observers suspect the real reason for the delayed restart in flights was a deterioration in diplomatic relations between Ankara and Abu Dhabi. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was enraged with the UAE’s decision to normalize relations with Israel earlier this year and threatened to suspend its own diplomatic relations with the UAE over the issue.
Turkey has also become more closely aligned with Iran – a regional foe of the United Arab Emirates, while Erdogan has also courted Qatar which is currently subject to a boycott by a Saudi-led quartet which includes the UAE.
Elsewhere, the UAE and Turkey have found themselves on different sides of the fence on a number of important subjects including political leadership in Egypt and a civil war that has ravaged Libya.
One expert suggested the pandemic had been used as a smokescreen for a quasi-boycott of Turkey.
A spokesperson for the government-owned flydubai, however, now says the airline plans to restart direct flights from Dubai to Istanbul on December 17. Sources from within Turkish Airlines told Bloomberg that the airline also intended to resume flights to the UAE within days although they demanded anonymity because the issue was so sensitive.
Emirates lists Istanbul as one of its destinations on its website but does not currently have any direct flights available to book, instead offering to route passengers through Amman with Royal Jordanian.
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.