The United Arab Emirates (UAE) could remain on the UK’s travel ‘Red List’ for the foreseeable future despite the country’s rapid vaccination rollout and stabilising Coronavirus infections, the British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has indicated.
England is expected to lift its ban on non-essential international travel from May 17 but direct passenger flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to the UK could remain off-limits if the Persian Gulf state remains on the Red List.
In an online ConservativeHome event, Shapps told members that the UAE wasn’t on the Red List because of its infection rate or vaccination progress but because the country is a major transit hub for the national airline’s Emirates and Etihad.
The British government had previously suggested that under a proposed traffic light system, passengers would face the least restrictions travelling from countries that hit three key targets: low infection numbers, a high vaccination rate and above standard testing capability.
Under those criteria, only a small number of countries would make England’s Green List where passengers would only be required to take a pre-departure and post-arrival test but wouldn’t otherwise have to isolate or quarantine. The UAE could have made the Green List alongside Israel, Portugal, Malta and even the USA.
At present, passengers who travel to England from the UAE must go via a third country and then isolate for 10 days in a government-approved quarantine hotel. Only British citizens, residents and visa holders are permitted entry.
Emirates’ long-serving British President Tim Clark, who has been Knighted for his services to aviation, slammed the idea that the UAE would remain on the Red List because of its status as a transit hub.
“Leaving us on the red list for reasons of transit doesn’t make any sense because [passengers] can just go through other hubs,” Clark said at the virtual World Aviation Festival in response to a question from The Independent.
“It compromises our United Kingdom operation for Emirates. It’s a real pity if they keep us on the red list,” he continued.
Emirates’ regional rival Qatar Airways found itself banned from flying to the UK last month after Qatar was added to the travel Red List. Shapps never explained why Qatar had been added to the Red List but it was widely believed to be because of its status as a transit hub rather than its infection rate.
There are reports, however, that passengers attempting to travel to the UK from other Red List countries like Pakistan are simply connecting through Istanbul because Turkey is not currently subject to additional travel restrictions.
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 used by some of the biggest names in journalism.