Speaking at the World Sustainable Business Forum on Monday, flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith said that the UAE’s proactive response to the pandemic helped its aviation industry recover much sooner than other parts of the world. He continued to say that this helped other markets rebound, but is he correct? We’ve taken a closer look.
Al Ghaith spoke at the event organized by Gulf News and pointed out that the UAE allowed leisure travelers into the state as early as July. While the rest of the world was tightening restrictions, Dubai was open for business. Al Ghaith pointed out that before summer 2020, flydubai was operating at around 65% of its pre-covid numbers.
According to Al Ghaith, quoted by GulfNews.com, the UAE was “quick to react” to the global pandemic, which enabled airlines to develop a plan. Like many other airlines globally, flydubai initially focused on repatriating citizens and cargo. Since Dubai is ideally placed to connect the east and west, many Middle Eastern carriers could help repatriate other countries’ citizens through the Dubai hub. Arguably, Dubai’s location rather than its quick response allowed carriers to keep flying during the early months.
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Reopening in May
Dubai technically reopened in May but with some stringent restrictions in place. Speaking last month, Issam Kazim, chief executive of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, highlighted the need to find a balance between safety and business. Speaking to Travelweekly.com, Kazmin said,
“A lot of these measures have been put into place, a lot of them are still being studied and analysed on a regular basis. We got awarded the Safe Destination stamp by the World Travel and Tourism Council, and we launched our own ‘Dubai Assured’ programme.”
Getting the balance between keeping residents safe while being open to tourists is something many countries struggled with. Dubai’s reopening under tight restrictions showed that if people felt safety was being taken seriously, they would travel for leisure reasons. This allowed others to follow the same examples. Interestingly, it also demonstrated that leisure travel could recover much faster than businesses travel.
Setting an example
After seeing that tourism was still a priority, airlines worldwide changed their networks to reflect demand. Many airlines have resumed or launched routes to allow for summer vacations closer to home. For example, the transatlantic market has been hit hardest while domestic US routes and intra-European routes are recovering faster.
Furthermore, flydubai’s Al Ghaith suggested that the close collaboration between the UAE government and the airlines was crucial. New policies were discussed before implementation, allowing for “practical and achievable” processes. If anything, the pandemic has shown how closely airlines, airports, and governments need to work together. The coordination between government expectations and airlines’ capabilities meant Dubai could enforce procedures, keeping citizens and tourists safe.
Within months of the pandemic hitting, Dubai’s reopening showed that cooperation and fast reactions do pay off. Dubai demonstrated to the aviation market in general that recovery is possible without sacrificing safety.
What do you think of Dubai’s response to the pandemic? Do you think it was well-handled? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.