Etihad Outlines Additional Rescue Flights

Etihad Airways has announced in a press release today its plans to operate additional special repatriation flights. This announcement comes amidst a period of complete suspension of scheduled passenger flights in and out of the country. UAE had announced on March 24th that no aircraft, other than returning UAE aircraft, will be allowed to land effective 25th of March for the next two weeks. Since then, Etihad has already operated special flights to Australia, the USA and Russia to help evacuate foreigners stuck in UAE and also to bring its own citizens home.

Etihad Outlines Additional Rescue Flights
Etihad Airways will operate a total of more than 30 return flights to various destinations in the next two weeks. Photo: Etihad Airways

Help is on the way

Following the ban on all passenger flights, many foreigners have not been able to return to their home country. However, the removal of the ban in the next few days will not necessarily mean that all flights will operate normally.

Due to plummeting demand for air travel, Etihad Airways has announced that it will only operate special flights to specific destinations until the 21st of April. All of these flights will only be available for booking on the outbound route. The return flight is only available for UAE citizens who wish to return to their home country. As of now, any non-citizen residents of UAE are not allowed to return at least until mid-April.

Etihad Outlines Additional Rescue Flights
Etihad destinations till the 21st of April. Photo: Simple Flying

In total, Etihad Airways will operate more than 30 return flights in the next 14 days. All these flights will be operated by the carrier’s fleet of B787-9/10’s.

The schedule is as follows:

  • Twice-weekly service to Singapore eff. 7th of April
  • Three-weekly service to Manila eff. 8th of April
  • Three-weekly service to Seoul eff. 8th of April
  • Five-weekly service to Melbourne eff. 8th of April
  • Four-weekly service to Amsterdam eff. 11th of April
  • One-weekly service to Jakarta eff. 9th of April

Tough times ahead?

Given the spread of coronavirus, a return to normalcy will be very gradual and a slow process. The middle east airports, like Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are the transit hubs of the world. Hence, the profitability of carriers like Emirates and Etihad depends highly on its connecting passengers.

Given the presence of travel restrictions worldwide, it might be difficult for the Middle East carriers to return to normal operations anytime soon. With the United States’ ban on non-American arrivals and a complete ban on flights from India, Emirates’ and Etihad’s most important connecting markets are already out of the picture.

Additionally, the high dependence of these carriers on their widebodies will be worrisome too. With almost negligible demand for global travel, operating aircraft like B777 and A380 empty will be something to reconsider.

Emirates suspend operations getty images
Emirates operates an all widebody fleet. Will it be worth flying an aircraft mostly empty? Photo: Getty Images

In the coming days, Emirates will be resuming operations to select destinations. Initially, it will operate four flights a week to London and three weekly flights each to Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels, and Zurich. However, any further expansion will be a question only time will answer.

Do you think Middle East carriers will be able to survive the coronavirus crisis? Let us know in your comments.