Commercial passenger flights in and out of Dubai and Abu Dhabi were grounded on March 24, but UAE airlines are operating outbound repatriation flights for those in the country trying to get home and Emirates and Etihad have also started inbound flights for residents and nationals trying to return to the UAE.
What are repatriation flights?
They are government-approved services intended to take people back to their home countries.
The majority of repatriation flights will only accept passengers who are permanent residents or citizens of a destination, while some may take travellers who are from neighbouring countries so they can then make their way home.
How can I book a repatriation flight?
Most passengers can book these flights online via an airline's website, and travellers typically do not need permission from their embassies to travel.
Repatriation flights are generally non-refundable and destination changes are typically not allowed.
The situation is changing by the hour, so it is strongly advised to check your eligibility to travel before booking a ticket for one of these special services. Check with the airline and also review regulations listed on the website for the International Air Transport Association.
What about the flights for residents and nationals returning to the UAE?
Emirates and Etihad are operating special passenger services for nationals and residents of the UAE who want to return to the country.
Travellers who wish to fly back to Dubai or Abu Dhabi must have approval from UAE authorities before booking such a flight. This can be applied for via the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship.
If applications are successful, residents will receive an approval code and a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These documents are required before travellers can book incoming flights. UAE citizenship or residency is also required (remember, residency visas that expired after March 1, 2020 have been extended until the end of December 2020).
"Expats who have their visa expiring after March 1, 2020, will have them valid until the end of December this year whether they are inside or outside the country," said Brig Khamis Al Kaabi, of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship last month.
How can I book a flight back to the UAE?
Bookings for return flights can be made online via Emirates or via Etihad's call centre. These flights cannot be booked via travel agents.
Etihad will request the approval code from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before allowing travellers to book a flight.
Emirates allows travellers to book flights online, but all passengers must show a letter of approval at check-in. Passengers who do not have this will be denied boarding.
Online check-in is not available and travellers will be pre-assigned seats following social distancing rules. If you are travelling as a family, you can advise staff of this upon check-in and operational teams will allocate seating accordingly where possible. No cabin baggage is allowed on flights other than handbags, laptop bags, briefcases and baby items.
Upon arrival in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, passengers will need to undertake a nasal swab test and pass thermal sensors. All incoming passengers must self-isolate for 14 days.
Here is everything you need to know about passenger flights to the UAE...
Emirates: To Dubai from London and Frankfurt
Emirates is operating inbound flights to Dubai from Germany and the UK.
From Frankfurt, flights are available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from May 11. One-way fares start from €591 (Dh2,364).
From London, Emirates will operate flights on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from May 10. One-way fares in economy class start from £551 (Dh2,511).
Etihad: From Europe and Asia
Etihad is operating inbound flights from 16 destinations to Abu Dhabi with services operating until Monday, June 15.
- Amsterdam: Mondays and Wednesdays until June 15
- Barcelona: Sundays until June 14
- Dublin: Saturdays until June 13
- Frankfurt: Sundays until June 14
- Geneva: Saturdays until June 14
- London: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until June 15
- Madrid: Saturday, June 13
- Milan: Sundays until June 14
- Paris: Sundays until June 14
- Jakarta: Fridays until June 12
- Kuala Lumpur: Saturdays until June 13
- Seoul: Fridays until June 12
- Singapore: Wednesdays until June 10
- Tokyo: Wednesdays until June 10
- Melbourne: Fridays until June 12
- Sydney: Wednesdays from May 27 until June 10
Outbound repatriation flights: Air Arabia to launch Egypt flights
Low-cost airline Air Arabia will operate repatriation services to Egypt. The outbound flights will help Egyptian nationals in the UAE return home. The special flights will operate from Sharjah International Airport to Cairo International Airport and Borg El Arab International Airport, Alexandria. The flights will depart from Thursday, June 11 until Tuesday, June 16.
The low-cost carrier operated several outbound passenger services from Sharjah during the coronavirus pandemic. The first repatriation flight flew to Lar in Iran on Thursday, April 23.
Air Arabia announced a longer list of destinations for a mix of cargo and passenger flights including Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Sudan, Egypt, India and Nepal.
All repatriation flights depart from Sharjah International Airport. Updates will be announced on the airline's website.
Emirates: adds four flights to Egypt
Emirates has added four repatriation flights from Dubai to Cairo to help Egyptian nationals return home. Fares start from Dh2,000 one-way.
All Emirates flights depart from Terminal 3 at the Dubai International Airport. The airline advises passengers to arrive at the airport three hours before departure time and to wear face masks and gloves.
- London: Daily until June 30. Economy tickets start from Dh2,500.
- Frankfurt: Every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday until June 30. Fares in economy start from Dh2,500.
- Manila: Friday, June 5 and Wednesday, June 17, subject to government approval.
- Bangkok: Saturday, June 13
- Accra: Friday, June 12 and Tuesday, June 16
- Conakry: Thursday, June 11
- Dakar: Thursday, June 11
- Cairo: Flights on Sunday, June 14, Thursday, June 18, Friday, June 19 and Sunday, June 21
- Tunis: Friday, June 12
Flydubai: Several flights added to Egypt
Dubai’s low-cost airline is offering repatriation flights to destinations in Europe and Asia from Dubai. Only economy-class tickets are available and fares include 20kg checked baggage allowance.
All Flydubai repatriation flights will operate from Terminal 2 at Dubai International Airport. Travellers can book flights online. All scheduled repatriation flights are subject to final government approval and the airline will focus on repatriation and cargo flights until at least Thursday, June 4.
One-way fares from Dh1,510
- Egypt: Daily to Cairo from Friday, June 12 until Wednesday, June 17,
fares from Dh1,800
- Serbia: To Belgrade on Saturday, June 13, fares from Dh2,810
- Finland: To Helsinki on Friday, June 12, fares from Dh2,9600
- Kyrgyzstan: To Bishkek on Sunday, June 21, fares from Dh1,510
- Romania: To Bucharest on Friday, June 12 fares from Dh2,210
- Ukraine: To Kyiv on Monday, June 15, fares from Dh1,810
Etihad: Flights to 17 destinations
Etihad Airways, the national airline for the UAE, has announced it will operate additional special passenger flights from Abu Dhabi to 17 destinations.
Tickets can be booked on Etihad's website. Because of the airline's social distancing rules, online check-in and seat selection is not available.
Here is a breakdown of the additional special services, though scheduling remains subject to change:
- Amsterdam: Wednesdays and Fridays until May 29 then Mondays and Wednesdays until June 29
- Barcelona: Sundays until June 28
- Brussels: Fridays and Sundays until June 28
- Dublin: Saturdays until June 27
- Frankfurt: Sundays until June 30
- Geneva: Saturdays until June 27
- London: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until June 29
- Madrid: Saturdays until June 27
- Milan: Sundays until June 28
- Paris: Sundays until June 28
- Zurich: Sundays until June 28
- Jakarta: Thursdays until June 25
- Kuala Lumpur: Saturdays until June 27
- Melbourne: Wednesday, May 20, Friday May 22, Wednesday, May 27 then Thursdays until June 25
- Seoul: Saturdays and Thursdays until June 27
- Singapore: Tuesdays until June 23
- Tokyo: Mondays until June 22
The Abu Dhabi airline plans to gradually restart passenger flights as travel restrictions ease.