Coronavirus: GCC airlines operate repatriation flights

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After suspending operations for nearly two weeks to contain the spread of coronavirus, several airlines in the GCC region have restarted passenger flights to repatriate those abroad.

Emirates airline resumed passenger operations on Monday, with repatriation flights from Dubai to four destinations. The first destinations include London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels, and Zurich, with four flights per week to London and three to the other cities.

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These flights will only carry outbound passengers from the UAE. Emirates will also carry belly-hold cargo in both directions, to continue trading and transport of essential goods.

“While we hope to resume full operations as soon as possible, we acknowledge the challenges faced by many cities in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and CEO of Emirates Group said.

“Our network can only be restored with the easing of travel restrictions, and we maintain close contact with all authorities for latest updates. We are working closely with the authorities to resume our services, keeping in mind the safety and wellbeing of our crew and customers at every step of the journey. We continuously review the situation and will announce any additional services as they become available.”

Read more: Top 10 photos of airlines grounded at deserted airports amid coronavirus

Emirates will offer seats in business and economy class, and flights can be booked by eligible passengers on the Emirates website. Travel restrictions are in place at these destinations, and travelers are urged to check entry criteria before they fly.

Etihad has also resumed passenger flights from Abu Dhabi to select destinations from April 5.

“From April 5, 2020, we’ll be operating a number of outbound flights to help foreign citizens return home from Abu Dhabi. All other flights to, from, and via Abu Dhabi have been temporarily suspended,” Etihad said in its website.

Meanwhile, India may look to resume flights with the UAE once its 21-day lockdown ends on April 14, a senior official has said.

India banned all international commercial passenger aircraft starting March 22, two days before the country announced the lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“Any incoming flights to bring Indians back home will have to await the lifting of the lockdown,” UAE news agency WAM quoted Hardeep Singh Puri, the minister for civil aviation, as saying on Thursday.

Saudi Airlines has agreed to operate exceptional commercial flights to allow British nationals and their families to return to the United Kingdom, according to the British embassy. Flights out of Jeddah and Dammam to London Heathrow are also scheduled with additional flights planned if required, the embassy added.

Last week, two Kuwait Airways planes brought citizens from Germany and Britain back to Kuwait, as a part of the government’s plans to bring nationals home from countries infected with coronavirus, director General of Civil Aviation said. Kuwait and Jazeera Airways brought back 306 citizens from Lebanon, Egypt, and Bahrain.

Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air has restarted operations for transit passengers between Europe and the Philippines. Passengers traveling from London, Paris, and Frankfurt will be allowed to transit through Bahrain International Airport in order to continue onward to Manila. However, passengers traveling on Gulf Air will not be allowed into Bahrain, the airline said.

Oman Air flew 111 Omani citizens home from the Indian cities of Kochi, Bengaluru, and Chennai on Friday. This was followed by cargo-only flights on Saturday and Sunday to China and India to collect essential supplies. Dozens more cargo flights are set for the days ahead, Oman Air said.

Qatar Airways is operating freight-only passenger aircraft to the Indian cities of Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, and Kolkata, in addition to freighter flights to Australia. Qatar Airways also ran a charter flights to Muscat, taking stranded Omanis back home from their studies in Australia, New Zealand, and the US.

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