Dubai-based airline Emirates announced today it would start operating outbound flights to another seven destinations, after resuming flights to London and Frankfurt on April 6. One day earlier Etihad also said it would increase its offering of special outbound-only flight services.
The United Arab Emirates flag carrier issued a press release on April 13 saying flights to Tunis, Jakarta, Manila, Algiers, Taipei, Chicago, and Kabul will recommence from Terminal 3 at the Dubai International Airport, but did not specify when the additional services will begin.
“These services will facilitate residents and visitors wishing to return home,” Emirates said, adding that passengers will be able to book directly with the airline or via their travel agent.
“Only citizens of the destination country and those who meet the entry requirements will be allowed to board. Passengers will be required to comply with each country’s requirement,” the airline specified.
There will also be stringent controls on cabin baggage, with passengers only permitted to carry a laptop, handbag, briefcase, or baby items.
On April 12, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad announced it would begin running “additional special flights” to Brussels, Dublin, London Heathrow, Tokyo Narita, and Zurich. These services are in addition to existing special flights running between Abu Dhabi and Amsterdam, Jakarta, Manila, Melbourne, Seoul Incheon, and Singapore.
“Etihad Airways has been operating special flights which have allowed passengers stranded in the UAE due to COVID-19 restrictions, the opportunity to return home. The flights also support the ‘UAE Food Security Program,’” the airline said in an online statement.
“The airline continues to repatriate UAE citizens on return sectors, where possible, and carry fresh produce as belly-hold cargo back to Abu Dhabi,” Etihad Airways added.
Etihad and Emirates were forced to hit the pause button on passenger services when the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) and the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) ordered the suspension of passenger flights on March 25 to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The carriers were permitted to begin flying again in earnest on April 6, but both appear set to limit themselves to running a small number of outbound flights for the foreseeable future.
Outlook on Moroccan flights
Etihad Airways has begun telling customers who want to fly out of Morocco that they expect to recommence flights from April 21, according to an Arabia Policy source.
“We are expecting to resume flights from 21 April. Please check our website for the latest updates and available flight options,” the airline said in an email to an Australian customer seeking to leave Morocco.
International flights in and out of Morocco are currently suspended and the entire country is subject to a lockdown, scheduled for review on April 20. It is possible that the April 21 date given by Etihad is arbitrary and entirely dependent on how Moroccan authorities decide to proceed with their COVID-19 curbs on April 20.
The news that Etihad may recommence operations as early as April 21 was met with cautious excitement by a group of Australian stranded in the North African country. They were, alongside many foreign visitors, caught unaware when Morocco closed its international airspace on short notice on March 15.
A number of commercial flights from the UK, Europe, the US, and Canada were allowed to operate after Morocco’s flight suspension began in order to repatriate stranded tourists. Australians struggled to secure seats on those flights, as companies privileged nationals of their base country over foreigner travelers.
Family and friends of Australians stuck in Morocco due to COVID-19 have started campaigning politicians for a repatriation flight and launched a petition on Change.org. The petitioners are concerned Morocco’s lockdown will drag on past April 20 as rumors swirl it will be extended until throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramandan, scheduled to finish around the end of May.