Before and after: how the skies are changing amid the coronavirus pandemic

Images from flight trackers one month ago tell a vastly different story than they do today

The skies look vastly different now than they did only a month ago.

As the number of commercial flights dwindle across the world with many airports closed and only a few routes in operation, vapour trails are disappearing from the sky. In fact, if you were to look at an image of flights around the world from February 23, and then one from today, March 23, you would see a strikingly different picture.

Two images from flight tracking website FlightRadar24 show how air traffic has changed in only a few short weeks.

On February 23, you would see a world map on FlightRadar24 almost completely blanketed by planes. The entire United States outline is obscured, as is that of entire Europe and most of Asia. Today, there is still plenty of air traffic over the US and Asia, but it is drastically decreased.

In the coming days, this picture will look hugely different still.

On March 21, FlightRadar24 reported its lowest level of tracked flights since January 1, 2017 – excluding Christmas.

Emirates flights are still in the air, for now

It is a similar story for the aviation sector in the UAE.

Emirates announced on Sunday it would be grounding its entire fleet, a decision which was almost immediately reversed, as the airline said it would still operate some flights to select locations.

However, on Monday, the Civil Aviation Authority announced that all passenger flights in and out of the UAE would be suspended from Wednesday, March 25, for a two-week period.

The temporary suspension will primarily affect Dubai airport – the world’s busiest hub by international passenger numbers. The airport is also the home base for Emirates.

As of Sunday night, there were still several dozen Emirates flights in the skies or at various destinations across the world, according to the FlightRadar24 tracking systems. Most were located in the Middle East, primarily in the UAE, or Europe.

So perhaps this might be the last image we see, until after the grounding of Emirates commercial flights in transit.


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