Virus Fears Lead To Saudi Arabia Banning Etihad Flights

Etihad Airways has been banned from flying into Saudi Arabian airspace today in a move to try and prevent the further spread of the deadly coronavirus. Four flights in motion from Abu Dhabi to cities in Saudi Arabia were only allowed to land and disembark local passengers, whilst other nationals were returned back to the UAE.

Etihad, 777-300ER
The 777-300ER might be better for peace and quiet. Photo: BriYYZ via Wikimedia Commons

What are the details?

The coronavirus has been spreading like wildfire throughout the world thanks to airlines’ thick web of world-spanning routes. Some countries have forbidden carriers from certain nations from entering their airspace in an effort to slow to the spread.

The latest country to do so is Saudia Arabia. They have decided that flights from Abu Dhabi are no longer possible and that all further flights need to be suspended. Specifically, the new directive from the General Authority for Civil Aviation of Saudia Arabia has seen 12 daily Etihad flights canceled, to destinations of:

  • Riyadh
  • Jeddah
  • Dammam
  • Medina

Four flights were already in the air when the new directive came through to the airline. Instead of turning around, the carrier was given permission to land and disembark those who held Saudia Arabia citizenship. Other passengers, many who had flown long hours from other destinations in the Etihad network, were forced to return back to the UAE.

The directive has also banned any foreign nationals arriving by plane or transferring from Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Italy, Egypt, and Korea via other countries.

Emirates, Etihad, China
Meanwhile, Etihad has suspended its flights to Chengdu and Shanghai until further notice. Photo: Etihad

What has been the airlines’ reaction?

Releasing a statement to the media, Etihad gave notice of the new directives instructions but has not given a clear indication of when the route suspensions will be lifted.

“Etihad Airways is working closely with regulatory authorities in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and is continuing to monitor this situation closely.”

Those passengers that had actually booked flights to Saudia Arabia on the airline have been offered flight changes to when they are free to travel again or accept a full refund.

“For passengers impacted by the flight cancellations, procedures are in place for fare refunds or for flight changes when services resume. Etihad will continue to provide updates on this situation as information becomes available.”

Etihad will be compensating passengers who are delayed or cannot reach their preferred destinations in Saudia Arabia. Photo: Marvin Mutz via Wikimedia Commons.


It is a shame to see so many routes suspended for a single airline. Etihad Airlines has 81 destinations on their books and to lose so many in quick succession is a blow for their bottom line. Especially after they were doing so well and posted financial results in 2019 that were on track to outperform expectations. 

It is unknown at this point how the airline will compensate for its sudden extra aircraft capacity. It could deploy them on other routes or if could simply ground the affected aircraft.

What do you think about this news? Were you disrupted by these suspensions? Let us know in the comments what you think.