Emirates’ UK boss reveals frustration at failure to remove UAE from UK travel red list

Richard Jewsbury presents ministers with data showing the Emirates is a low risk country

An Airbus SE A380 passenger aircraft, operated by Emirates Airline, passes a CCTV camera as it prepares to land at London Heathrow Airport in London, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. Climate activists were planning to fly toy drones near Heathrow Friday as part of a campaign to draw attention to an expected increase in greenhouse gas emissions from a planned expansion of the airport.  Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
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The boss of Emirates airline's UK operation said he is frustrated that the UAE remains on the British government's red list for travel.

Richard Jewsbury, divisional vice president at Emirates, said he had presented data to the UK government showing high vaccination rates and low levels of infection in the UAE but, as yet, to no avail.

The UAE has been on the UK's red list for travel since the traffic light system was introduced in late January, with travellers required to pay to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.

In a major development for travel to the UK, ministers are currently considering dropping quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated British expatriates, but this would benefit only those who live in amber countries.

The UK will drop quarantine requirements for double-vaccinated visitors from the EU and the US from next month.

The traffic light system has caused a collapse in passenger numbers and separated scores of expats from their families in the UK.

Emirates used to operate about 20 flights a day between the UK and the UAE.

This is compared with next week's schedule, with just two Emirates flights a day between the two countries, according to Skyscanner.

UK travel: Green, amber and red list countries

Mr Jewsbury said the decision to keep the UAE on the red list was frustrating given favourable Covid data, particularly the vaccination rate, with 69 per cent of the UAE population fully inoculated against the virus.

“It’s just a case of waiting for the UK authorities to shuffle the deck on the red, amber and green categories," he told the Press Association.

“The next change should be during the first half of August and we would hope to see some movement reflective of the state of play in the UAE and all the health and safety measures that have been put in place across the passenger journey.”

He said the UK appeared to be taking a more cautious approach compared with other European countries, such as Germany, which lists the UAE as low-risk.

“All we can do is stay engaged and flag up the data and hope that it’s acted upon," he said.

This month, the boss of Dubai Airports predicted that the UAE would remain on the red list for "a bit longer".

"It could be that we'll be on the amber list, which means if you go straight to the UK you will be exempt from the dreaded hotel quarantine, which everyone is loathing at the moment. So, fingers crossed," he told Dubai Dubai Eye radio's Business Breakfast.

The UAE ambassador to Britain, Mansoor Abulhoul, also expressed frustration that the UK is keeping the Emirates on its travel red list.

"It is disappointing to see that the UAE remains on the UK's red travel list," he said in June.

"We have best-in-class health and safety infrastructure to protect visitors and residents. This includes rapid testing, social distancing and sanitisation procedures at our airports, as well as Emirates and Etihad airlines fully sanitising all planes. Additionally, the UAE is among the top countries in the world for vaccination rate and its testing programme."

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in April that the UAE would stay on the red list because the country is a major transit centre for passengers joining connecting flights.

“We are not restricting the UAE because of levels of coronavirus in the UAE,” he told a Conservative Home event.

“The specific issue in the UAE is one of transit. It’s because they are a major transit hub. The Joint Biosecurity Centre can work wonders studying all this detail, but eventually you get to the point where they are having to make too many assumptions about where people are travelling to/from.

“And that is a specific issue we have with the UAE as opposed to prevalence or some other reason.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel also criticised British social media influencers for visiting the UAE when a ban on non-essential travel was in place, saying: "Going on holiday is not an exemption and it is important that people stay at home."

The Covid situation has vastly improved in the UK since the traffic light system was first set up, with more than 70 per cent of adults now fully vaccinated.

There are also early signs the country may be past the peak of the Delta wave after daily cases declined for the seventh consecutive day.

Scientists have said the Covid crisis in Britain could be over by the end of summer.

Updated: July 29, 2021, 10:16 AM