Coronavirus: Emirates and Etihad cancel flights for two weeks from Wednesday

Network to and from Dubai will be much reduced when flying starts again

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Monday 23 March 2020 08:49
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Emirates has changed its plans for closing down passenger operations for the third time in 12 hours.

Following an order from the UAE government, the giant Dubai-based airline now says it will ground all passenger flights from Wednesday 25 March – initially for two weeks – in a bid to limit the spread of Covid-19.

In its first announcement on Sunday afternoon, Emirates said it would cease all passenger operations from Wednesday.

But two hours later, the airline said: “Having received requests from governments and customers to support repatriation of travellers, Emirates will continue to operate passenger and cargo flights to few countries until further notice, as long as borders remain open, and there is demand.”

Now the UAE government has banned all passenger flights for a spell of two weeks.

The measure will also hit passengers of Etihad, based in Abu Dhabi, as well as dozens of other airlines flying to and from the UAE’s airports – including Sharjah, which has become a low-cost hub.

A statement on the Emirates website said: “As per the UAE government’s directive, Emirates will temporarily suspend all passenger services for two weeks starting from 25 March.

“We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused to our customers and travellers. These measures are in place to contain the spread of Covid-19, and we hope to resume services as soon as feasible.”

Many UK travellers had been relying on Emirates to fly home from locations in Asia, Africa and Australasia.

Passengers are being told: “You don’t currently need to call us to cancel your booking as we will not charge no-show fees.”

The airline is offering vouchers for future travel rather than cash refunds – even though European air passengers’ rights rules insists that travellers whose journey begins in the EU or UK should get their money back.

Emirates is by far the largest of the Gulf-based airlines, and normally flies more than 160,000 passengers each day to or from Dubai’s main airport – which has become the world’s busiest in terms of international passengers.

Before the coronavirus crisis, the airline linked Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow with Dubai, for onward connections to Africa, Asia and Australasia.

But once flying starts again, the route network will not be restored in full. The airline has warned of “a prolonged period of reduced flight schedules, so that we are adequately prepared for the return to normality”.

Neither Etihad nor Air Arabia, which normally has a busy network from Sharjah, has so far made a statement.

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