The big Gulf carriers, Etihad Airways and Emirates, will temporarily end their UK flights on Friday after the UK Government put the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on their red list. After a country is placed on the red list, flights originating there cannot land in the UK. Also getting added to the UK’s red list are two countries in Africa.
UK imposes a Friday lunchtime deadline
From 13:00 (UK time) on Friday, January 29, entry to the UK is banned for visitors arriving from the UAE, Burundi, and Rwanda. Passengers who have been in or transited through these three countries in the last 10 days will not be allowed into the UK. A media statement issued by the UK’s Department for Transport on Thursday said;
“The decision to ban travel from these destinations follows the discovery of a new coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa that may have spread to other countries, including the UAE, Burundi, and Rwanda.”
It takes the number of countries on the UK’s red list to 33. The bulk of those countries are located either in Africa or South America.
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Seven flights scheduled between UAE and UK on Friday
Normally, flights between the UAE and the UK are big money spinners for the airlines. In 2019, it was not unusual to see five or six Emirates flights a day land at London Heathrow. While the travel downturn has put the brakes on both frequencies and seat capacities, the route between Dubai and London Heathrow was the world’s busiest international route in January 2021. According to OAG data, 190,365 seats were available on flights between Dubai and London Heathrow this month.
On Friday, four nonstop Emirates flights and one British Airways Airbus A350 service are scheduled to fly the sector. The British Airways flight and two of the Emirates flights will land before the 13:00 deadline.
Etihad has two flights scheduled between its Abu Dhabi base and London Heathrow on Friday. Both flights will land before the 13:00 deadline.
British & Irish nationals able to enter the UK from red list countries
The travel ban does not include British and Irish nationals or third-country nationals with residence rights in the UK. The UK Government says British nationals currently in the UAE should use the commercial flight options available if they wish to return to the UK. Indirect commercial routes that will enable British and Irish nationals and residents to return to the UK will continue to operate.
British and Irish nationals or third-country nationals with residence rights in the UK will be required to self-isolate for 10 days at home, along with their household. Passengers returning from these countries cannot be released from self-isolation through the Test to Release program.
Also getting added to the UK Government’s red list are Burundi and Rwanda. There are no flights scheduled between either Burundi and the UK and Rwanda and the UK over the short term. The UK Rwanda and Burundi travel ban won’t impact airlines as much as travelers who have been in or transited through those countries within 10 days of wanting to enter the UK.
The snap decision is likely to lead to a rush to board flights from the UAE to the UK overnight. Airlines flying the routes expected to slash their services once the ban comes into effect.