Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 6 December 2020

CORONAVIRUS

UAE-UK air corridor opens up with travellers able to fly without 14-day quarantine

Holidaymakers will flock to Dubai for winter sun, say analysts, with UAE residents jetting to Britain for Christmas

The UAE was added to Britain's air travel corridor list on Thursday, as the UK government opened up more destinations for airline passengers despite the country being in the middle of its second Covid lockdown.

The move has led to a surge in flight bookings and a 20 per cent hike in ticket prices.

Travellers flying to the UK out of the UAE after 4am on November 14 will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days, however, they must have spent at least two weeks in the country to qualify for the quarantine exemption, according the Department of Transport. The travel corridor extension also included Bahrain and Qatar.

"BAHRAIN, CHILE, ICELAND, CAMBODIA, LAOS, UAE, QATAR and TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS have been ADDED to the #TravelCorridor list. If you arrive from these countries after 4am on Saturday 14th November you will NOT need to self-isolate," DoT minister Grant Shapps tweeted on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Mansoor Abulhoul, the UAE ambassador to the UK, said in a tweet that the air corridor "shows the strength of the British-Emirati relationship" and will "lay the foundation for when normal international travel resumes".

"The UAE remains one of the safest places in the world against Covid-19 and continues to have one of the highest testing rates globally. Our hotels, restaurants and malls have been up and running since April and look forward to hosting many British visitors again soon.”

Opening up the air corridor will allow Britons to enjoy some winter sun in the popular holiday destination, while also allowing UAE residents with UK links the chance to visit family and friends for Christmas or enjoy a shopping spree in the country.

Analysts said opening the air corridor will offer a much needed boost to the two country's aviation and tourism industries.

"Opening up an air corridor with the UK not only opens up the prospect of a post-lockdown winter sun getaway for would-be travellers, it also allows airlines like British Airways, Emirates and Etihad to bolster services over the festive and New Year period to tap into demand," said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at Strategic Aero Research.

"Clearly, this is a huge fillip for both the UAE which relies on large swathes of tourists, many of whom come from the UK and of course, this will provide an economic and financial boost to coffers for airlines that have been bleeding money for all of 2020."

Dubai International Airport in Dubai. The airport is getting busier but it’s a long way from the passenger numbers seen before the coronavirus pandemic. AP
Dubai International Airport in Dubai. The airport is getting busier but it’s a long way from the passenger numbers seen before the coronavirus pandemic. AP

The UAE is a popular tourism and business destination for the UK, with more than 5,000 British businesses and 120,000 British citizens living in the UAE, according to the British Business Group in Dubai. Separately, 1.5 million Britons visit the country from the UK every year.

The UAE is the UK’s fifth largest export market outside Europe, after US, Japan, China and Hong Kong, with totalreciprocal trade in goods and services between the two countries reaching £18.2 billion last year, BBG said, with expectations the figure will rise to £25bn by 2022 thanks to post-Brexit free trade agreements.

John Martin St. Valery, chairman of BBG in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, said there is an enormous appetite for "even greater collaboration between the UK and the UAE on trade".

"It's not just about UK business opportunities here, but there's an enormous amount of UAE investment in the UK so this [new air corridor] is particularly important while the UK is entering into a new era of independent trading alliances post Brexit," Mr Martin St. Valery told The National.

"In the the UAE, there's a real appetite – not just government to government, business to government, but also business to business in the SME space – to encourage UK businesses to look beyond the UK shores to the UAE. It comes down to boots on the ground, so to open a corridor where it's safe and secure, and all the protocols are in place for those that are travelling back and forth from a business perspective, that will be welcomed."

Britons flying into Dubai will still need to follow the country's Covid guidelines on entry at Dubai International Airport. These include passing through thermal scanners on arrival and then taking a Covid test in the airport before self-isolating until the results come in, according to Emirates.

Under the UK's guidelines, travellers arriving in the UK must fill in a passenger locator form and wear a face mask when travelling through the airport or on public transport.

Anyone who has visited a destination not on the travel corridor list 14 days before they arrive in Britain must still self-isolate. This means passengers transiting through another country before or after Dubai will still need to go into quarantine when they arrive in the UK.

With England still under lockdown, anyone arriving in the country before December 2 must also follow national restrictions, which include staying at home and not meeting people you do not live with.

Mr Ahmad said hotel occupancy will thrive on the back of bookings to the UAE.

"Its impossible to put a figure on how many people will use the new air corridor given the financial pressures of Covid driving up unemployment around the world," he said. "But leisure seekers are more likely to capitalise on competitive fares and hotel rates while business travellers will be few and far between given the current emphasis of working from home and using technologies for live conferencing, dispensing the need for overseas travel."

 An Emirates Airline Airbus A380-800 plane takes off from Dubai International Airport in Dubai. Reuters
 An Emirates Airline Airbus A380-800 plane takes off from Dubai International Airport in Dubai. Reuters

With the entire aviation industry "battered to a pulp by Covid19", Mr Ahmad said the new air channel indicates that a return to normality will arrive sooner than expected.

A “staggering” 174 million travel and tourism jobs could be lost worldwide this year if current global travel restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 continue, the World Travel & Tourism Council said late last month.

Prolonged travel barriers could also eliminate $4.7 trillion of the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product, equivalent to a 53-per-cent loss when compared to 2019.

Last month, Heathrow was overtaken as Europe’s busiest airport for the first time by Paris Charles de Gaulle amid falling air travel demand during Covid-19, as almost airports body ACI Europe said 200 airports in the continent face going bust by the end of the year.

Heathrow said its passenger numbers were 82 per cent down in October compared with the same month a year earlier as a result of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, said last month that reviving demand for air travel is “an essential part of the kick-start of the global economy".

Annual passenger traffic at Dubai International Airport, the busiest hub by international traffic before the pandemic, could fall as much as 70 per cent as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, Mr Griffiths said, though the airport is handling around one million monthly passengers - higher than it had forecast.

Emirates has introduced self-service check-in and bag drop facilities at Dubai International Airport. Courtesy Emirates
Emirates has introduced self-service check-in and bag drop facilities at Dubai International Airport. Courtesy Emirates

Last month, Bandar Reda, secretary general and chief executive of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, said the UAE is keen to deepen its ties with the UK post-Brexit and expects opportunities to grow between the two nations as Covid-19 tapers off.

“The forthcoming Dubai Expo will present a unique opportunity for businesses … Furthermore, the post-Brexit environment is opening up more opportunities for productive private sectors engaging," he said. "It is clear that this is an opportunity moment to reinforce the historic and deep inroads between the UK and the UAE."

Mr Martin St.Valery said: "Last year, about 13,000 companies UK companies exported to the UAE and some of those companies would actually like to be here. So I think there's a real opportunity as we move forward and things start to open up."

While some countries were added to the UK's air corridor list, others were removed, according to Mr Shapps, including all of Greece, apart from Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, Zakynthos and Kos. A travel ban between the UK and Denmark was also extended for 14 days.

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Read more: UAE-India air corridor extended

Updated: November 13, 2020 07:11 PM

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