How The UK’s Flight Ban Will Impact Emirates

The British government has placed the UAE on its ‘red list’ of countries with flight bans. The news comes after a new coronavirus variant was found to have spread there. Emirates had been operating a comparatively high service frequency on its routes to the UK until this point. So what will the suspension mean for the Dubai-based carrier?

Emirates Airbus A380 New York JFK
Even amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Emirates had retained a high frequency on its UK services. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Suspension active as of this afternoon

Following the ban on entry to the UK from Dubai, which comes into effect at 13:00 GMT today, Emirates is operating its last Britain-bound flights for the time being. Earlier this morning on Twitter, it announced that “passenger services between Dubai and all our UK points – Birmingham, Glasgow, London & Manchester – have been suspended until further notice.”

A statement on the carrier’s website further detailed the final UK flights that it would be operating today. These are as follows.

  • Dubai-London Heathrow – EK01 & EK07.
  • Dubai-Glasgow – EK27.
  • Dubai-Birmingham – EK39.
  • London Heathrow – Dubai – EK02 & EK08.
  • Glasgow-Dubai – EK28.
  • Birmingham-Dubai – EK40.
B777-300ER Emirates
Dubai-London Heathrow was January’s busiest international route by scheduled seats. Photo: Getty Images

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Statistics from travel data provider OAG show that Dubai-London Heathrow was the world’s busiest international airline route this month. With 190,365 available seats on scheduled services, it outranked second-placed Cairo-Jeddah by over 35,000.

UK flag carrier British Airways does have a presence on the Heathrow-Dubai corridor. However, the vast majority of these seats will have been on Emirates flights. As such, the UAE flag carrier is likely to take a large financial hit from this ban. But how large, exactly? Let’s closer examine Emirates’ presence in the UK.

A key market for Emirates

Emirates has built the UK market to be one of its largest by serving airports across the country. Rather than taking a conventional London-centric approach, its presence at airports such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow has allowed many more British travellers to connect through its Dubai hub without requiring a change in the UK capital. As such, the ban is potentially restricting travel to the UK from many more connecting destinations further afield.

Emirates a380 Australia
Emirates was flying as many as six daily Airbus A380 rotations between Dubai and Heathrow at its peak. Photo: Getty Images

The statistics tell the story of the UAE flag carrier’s conspicuous presence on British soil. Indeed, in September 2019, Simple Flying reported that flights between Dubai and the UK made up a quarter of Emirates’ entire capacity.

In terms of the airline’s European profits, UK-bound flights accounted for a staggering 56%. At one time, London Heathrow saw six daily Emirates A380 rotations, with average load factors of over 90%. Other UK routes saw similar demand. However, the current picture is rather different, and Emirates and its customers will likely experience significant negative impacts as a result.

Other banned countries

The number of countries with arrivals bans in the UK has now reached 33 with the UAE’s addition. Also added at the same time were the African nations of Burundi and Rwanda. The ban also dictates that passengers who have been in these three countries within the past 10 days will not be granted entry into the UK.

Rwandair Airbus A330
Along with the UAE, the UK government has also added Rwanda to its red list. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr

This even applies to people who have transited through banned countries within this timeframe. The Department for Transport stated yesterday that:

“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 is uncertain when the British government will remove the affected countries from the list. With the new coronavirus strain’s potential to spread further, we may even see more territories added. Either way, the ban represents a significant challenge for Emirates, which had built up an enormous presence at airports across the UK before the pandemic struck.

Have you had to change your travel plans due to the cancellation of Emirates’ UK flights? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.