Adding to the chaos and conflicting information over the last two days, we now have news that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) intends to suspend all passenger flights into and out of the country in less than 48 hours. More importantly, it plans to even suspend the transit of airline passengers. If carried through, these decisions will bring national airlines Emirates and Etihad to a standstill.
A government decision
According to Executive Traveller, the decision comes from the government agencies of the United Arab Emirates and not the airlines themselves. Specifically, this is coming from the agencies of the National Emergency and Crisis and Disasters Management and the UAE Civil Aviation Authority.
These are the details of the new rules and policies:
- This travel ban will prevent citizens from leaving the country
- The passenger flight ban will take effect in 48 hours (March 25) and be in place for two weeks
- There will be exemptions for emergency evacuation flights and cargo services
“Additional examination and isolation arrangements will be taken later should flights resume in order to ensure the safety of passengers, air crews, and airport personnel and their protection from infection risks,” UAE’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.
Emirates and Etihad to halt services
Of course, this will stop the operations of both UAE airlines Emirates and Etihad. Up to this point, Etihad was making relatively small cuts to its services. In the last two days, Emirates made a number of announcements.
First, there was a sweeping cut of its services, followed by an announcement of a full suspension. This was then followed by a backtracking statement. The backtrack was due to lobbying from foreign governments hoping to have some lines open in order to allow stranded nationals to get to their home countries.
With their relatively small populations, Emirates and Etihad are heavily reliant on transit passengers to sustain their businesses. It is one thing for the UAE to bar the entry of foreigners into the country – it is a far more devastating blow to the airlines now that transit of passengers is also banned.
“As per the latest UAE government directive, Emirates will temporarily suspend all passenger flights for 2 weeks from 25 March 2020. These measures are in place for the protection of communities against the spread of COVID-19, and we are in full support. We look forward to resuming passenger services as soon as feasible. Affected customers should visit emirates.com for more information on rebooking or contact their travel agents for assistance.” – Emirates
What should travelers do?
It’s quite likely that this decision will leave many travelers stranded all around the world as they make attempts to return home. Already, we’ve heard numerous stories of people unable to get home from their vacations, stranded in countries, having to pay for expensive accommodations.
Passengers that have a future booking with Emirates or Etihad are encouraged to go to the airlines’ websites for the latest information. Emirates’ most recent update can be found here, while you can access Etihad’s latest update here. Additionally, there may be some actions passengers can take in managing their flight in each website’s “Manage Booking” section.
Both airlines, along with others around the world, have been offering travel vouchers and credit for canceled flights for use at a later time. However, we understand this may not be of help for those left stranded away from home.
Does this decision affect you? Share your experience with us in the comments.