Coronavirus: Dubai’s Emirates plans air bridges to Europe for quarantine-free travel

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Dubai’s Emirates airline plans to open “air bridges” with countries in Europe, allowing travelers to visit countries across the continent without quarantine as governments and health authorities gradually ease coronavirus lockdown measures.

“Building air bridges between cities is very important and it’s currently useful. With agreements on certain measures, it could be done between cities to allow citizens and residents of the two countries to enter and exit without being quarantined. We have started talks with some countries and some cities in Europe to operate some of these flights with certain agreements,” said Adel Al Redha, COO of Emirates in an interview with Al Arabiya on Tuesday.

Both sides, Dubai airports and other cities, already intend to offer these flights, Al Redha explained.

Air bridges have been discussed in other countries, with the UK indicating earlier on Tuesday that it too would announce bridges for holidaymakers to travel overseas without entering self-isolation when they return, UK media reported.

Emirates is currently flying to 30 destinations around the world, but Al Redha indicated that this number would likely rise in July.

“Beginning of July we will operate to new destinations after getting the relevant approvals from countries,” he said.

Last Thursday, Emirates said it would be adding Cairo, Egypt, to its list of destinations, following an announcement on the previous Tuesday that the airline would be adding flights to Kabul, Afghanistan from June 25.

In addition to Kabul, Emirates has previously announced flights to Bahrain, London Heathrow, Manchester, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Zurich, Vienna, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, New York JFK, Chicago, Toronto, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta, Taipei, Hong Kong, Perth and Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Manila, the statement read.

Travelers from Pakistan are also able to book flights from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many firms operating in the travel sector to the brink, and while economies have begun to show some signs of recovery, Al Redha noted that challenges still laid ahead.

“July will be a test to all sectors. As we can see many countries eased restrictions on airports. There will be more travel in July, and airlines will be tested, and we’ll see people’s acceptance and demand on travel. The bookings on Emirates flights seem to have demand, but the test will still be determined in July,” he said.

UAE opens airports

Earlier this month, the UAE announced it would allow a limited reopening of flights through its airports which will allow for transiting passengers, and for residents and nationals to return to the UAE.

The announcement was made during a coronavirus press briefing by Dr. Saif al-Dhaheri, spokesman for National Authority for Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management.

“The decision to suspend passenger flights to and from the country is still in effect,” al-Dhaheri said.

He added that limited flights will be temporarily permitted for the purpose of “evacuating residents and visitors who wish to leave the UAE and return to their country.”

Flights out of the UAE were suspended on March 23 as officials moved to contain the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. Etihad, Emirates and other Gulf airlines have been offering flights out of the UAE for those looking to return, but incoming flights are limited.

It is currently unclear when all government restrictions on passengers will lift. The UAE has temporarily banned visas on arrival for all nationalities and banned its citizens from traveling outside the country.

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