Emirates has managed to secure special permission to operate flights between Dubai and the Kingdom. The flights will take place from March 12th-15th, allowing passengers in either country to return home. The news comes as Saudi Arabia has banned flights to and from 39 countries, including all EU and Gulf countries.
A much-needed service
The UAE and Saudi Arabia see a large number of residents moving between the two countries. In 2019, 1.6 million Saudi tourists visited the UAE. Saudi Arabia is home to some of Islam’s most revered sites, including Mecca, which attracts millions of visitors every year. With such high traffic between the countries, Saudi’s decision to ban all travel to and from UAE could leave hundreds potentially stranded.
Emirates’ decision will help many stranded passengers return to their home country. The announcement states that only Saudi nationals will be able to take Emirates’ flight to Saudi Arabia, with exceptions for G20 permit holders (who can travel to Riyadh only). However, any non-Saudi nationals will be able to take the Emirates flight to Dubai from Saudi Arabia. The exact flight schedule is listed below:
- Dubai to Jeddah: EK 803 departing 1610 hours, arriving 1830 hours
- Jeddah to Dubai: EK 804 departing 2020 hours, arriving 0030 hours the next day
- Dubai to Riyadh: EK 817 departing 1830 hours, arriving 1940 hours
- Riyadh to Dubai: EK 818 departing 2125 hours, arriving 0035 hours the next day
- Dubai to Dammam: EK 825 departing 1600 hours, arriving 1630 hours
- Dammam to Dubai: EK 826 departing 1755 hours, arriving 2020 hours
Coronavirus impact continues to grow
Saudi Arabia is one of many countries extending its travel bans to include more countries. In the last day alone, India has suspended all visas and the US barred all travelers from the EU, in addition to previous restrictions. Saudi’s far-reaching ban means no flights to or from the 39 listed countries can enter the Kingdom, effectively banning dozens of airlines. Exceptions have been made, such as in Emirates’ case, to allow nationals to return to their home nations.
The ban will have a huge impact on Saudi’s growing religious and general tourism. Last year, the Kingdom introduced new visa rules for 49 countries to attract tourists, as part of its Vision 2030 plan. The plan was meant to complement Saudi’s large number of religious visitors who visit the country every year.
Carriers in Saudi Arabia, including new low-cost carriers like Flynas, will definitely feel the pinch of the new travel restrictions. Moreover, carriers might even begin grounding parts of its fleet if the ban drags on.
Emirates’ special routes will definitely help passengers stranded in both countries. However, with the virus only continuing to spread, we could see the aviation industry suffer into the profitable summer months. Demand has fallen sharply as more countries impose stricter travel restrictions and travelers grow even more anxious. The coming few months will see airlines struggling to survive, with airlines all over the world cutting costs and trimming routes.