Coronavirus: Etihad suspends flights to Manila, Cairo, Nairobi and Geneva

The airline is cancelling services to four more destinations

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Etihad has announced that it is suspending flights to four more destinations. Flights to Manila and Cairo will halt on Wednesday, March 18. Services to Nairobi and Geneva will follow on Thursday, March 19.

The airline suspended all flights to and from Milan and Rome in Italy, on Saturday, March 14. The Abu Dhabi carrier has stopped its daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Milan until further notice, in compliance with a directive from the General Civil Aviation Authority of the UAE.

Meanwhile, its two daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Rome have also been suspended, with two final flights, EY 85 to Rome and EY 86 to Abu Dhabi, to operate on Saturday.

Reduced flights to Italy

As Italy comes to terms with a blanket of travel restrictions designed to contain the spread of Covid-19, several other airlines have reduced or suspended flights to the country.

From the UAE, Emirates is suspending its daily flight to Venice from March 12 to 31.

The Dubai airline is also reducing services on its Dubai to Milan route, cutting its three daily flights down to one.

An Emirates spokesperson said: "We have temporarily reduced the frequency of our daily flights to Milan from three to one. This remaining daily flight will continue to operate as  EK205/206 from Dubai to Milan, but will not operate onward to New York, as this sector has also been suspended from March 11 until April 3."

Emirates flights to Rome will also be cut, with services dropping from two flights per day to one, until at least April 30.

Special flights to Saudi Arabia

Emirates and Etihad will operate special services to and from Saudi Arabia during the kingdom's temporary suspension of flights. Authorities in Saudi Arabia announced this week that they were temporarily closing the kingdom's borders to flights from 39 countries, including the UAE.

Under a special dispensation from authorities in Saudi Arabia, Emirates will operate three daily flights to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam from March 12 to March 15. From March 11, Etihad will also fly one service per day from Abu Dhabi to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

These flights will give Saudi travellers a way to return home.

Only Saudi nationals will be allowed to travel on the Emirates flights from Dubai to Jeddah and Dammam. The flight to Riyadh will be open to Saudi nationals and travellers holding permits for the G20 Summit. Return flights from the three Saudi airports will only be open to non-Saudi nationals.

Etihad's flights to the kingdom will only be open to Saudi nationals but return flights will not be restricted. Etihad has suspended all flights between Abu Dhabi and Medina until further notice.

Oman suspends tourist visas

Oman has decided to suspend all tourist visas for a month starting on March 15, reports local media. The news comes after Sultan Haitham held his first meeting to discuss what to do about the current corona outbreak. In addition, all cruise ships will be banned from entering Omani ports for a month and there is also expected to be a stop on all sport activities and shisha for the same time period.

Saudi Arabia suspends flights to and from the UAE

Flights to and from Saudi Arabia for "all air carriers" operating from several countries including the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, South Korea, Egypt, Italy, Iraq, Oman, France, Germany, Turkey and Spain have been temporarily suspended.

Authorities announced that the measure was a bid to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Following the statement from the General Authority of Civil Aviation Saudi Arabia, all flights from the UAE to Damman, Jeddah, Medina and Riyadh were cancelled.

Emirates customers who were due to travel to or from Saudi Arabia can rebook flights on an alternative date or apply for a refund. The airline reminded passengers travelling from any other country, but with a final destination of Saudi Arabia, that they will not be accepted for boarding at their point of origin until further notice.

Beyond the flight suspension, the kingdom has announced that it has suspended all travel to these 39 countries for all Saudi citizens and residents. The travel ban covers Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia.

Kuwait: Etihad suspends daily flights, flydubai to operate special services

The Kuwait government has suspended all commercial flights and announced a public holiday that will last until Thursday, March 26 in a bid to control the spread of Covid-19.

Following the announcement, flydubai said it will temporarily suspend all flights to and from Kuwait from Saturday, March 14.

On Thursday, March 12, flydubai's flights will operate only for Kuwaiti nationals, immediate family and domestic helpers under the same sponsorship and travelling together. The airline's last flight departing Kuwait will leave at 3.05pm, on Friday, March 13.

Etihad Airways has also announced that it will be suspending its three daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. The suspension will take effect from midnight Kuwait time, Friday, March 13, until further notice.

The news comes after the Kuwait government announced several preventative measures to contain the spread of coronavirus. All workplaces will remain closed until Thursday, March 26 and the country has also banned individuals from going to public gathering spots such as restaurants and cafes, including those inside malls.

When it comes to travel to Kuwait, it's always best to check travel advisory sites as the coronavirus situation is constantly updating. Kuwait has temporarily suspended issuing visit visas, except for those on diplomatic missions. School holidays in the country have also been extended until Thursday, March 26 and the government has banned all cinema screenings, wedding parties and hotel events.

Kuwait previously had suspended all flights to and from seven countries: Bangladesh, Syria, Egypt, India, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. All foreign nationals landing in Kuwait were to be denied entry to the country if they have travelled to any of the above countries in the past few weeks, even if they have valid residency or valid visas.

The government had also announced 14-day quarantines for people returning from countries hit hard by the spread of the infection.

Etihad passengers turned around at Saudi ports

Etihad said it is working with impacted travellers to re-book or refund tickets to Saudi Arabia. The airline operates up to 12 flights per day between Abu Dhabi and the kingdom. Four Etihad flights that were en-route to Saudi Arabia when the decision was made to suspend flights landed in the kingdom.

Nationals of Saudi Arabia were permitted to disembark at Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, but all other passengers remained on the aircraft to return to Abu Dhabi.

The fourth flight operational at the time of the suspension was announced operated to Medina to repatriate Umrah passengers from Saudi to the UAE.

Saudia Airlines - the national carrier for the kingdom - is also set to refund or rebook tickets for affected travellers. The airline has waived all change fees on international flights to and from Saudi Arabia on tickets issued on or before March 31, 2020 for travel up to and including Wednesday April 15, 2020.

Etihad offers refunds for teachers and free change for others 

Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the UAE, is allowing teachers across the country to claim a full refund on flights that were booked for the spring break holiday.

This comes after authorities in the UAE closed schools and moved the spring break holiday forward by two weeks.

Teachers that were set to fly with Etihad can claim a full refund so long as flights were booked on or before March 5, 2020. To be eligible, teachers must provide Etihad with a letter of confirmation of employment from their school or education institution.

A full fare refund without any standard change fees will be issued.

All other travellers can make a change to new and existing bookings, without facing any change fees. New bookings can be for any time up to April 15, 2020 but only one fee-free change will be allowed. Travellers making new bookings between March 8 and April 7 to any destination across Etihad's network can change the date of travel or destination once, fee-free.


Emirates adds flexible change policies

Emirates has extended its newly introduced flexible booking policy to cover all existing bookings. Previously, the policy — which allows travellers to adjust flights without change fees — only applied to new bookings.

The Dubai airline has extended the fee-waiver programme to cover all Emirates flights booked on or before March 31, 2020. Travel can be rebooked for any period within an 11 month window from the original date of travel. Previously, bookings could only be changed for travel up until June 30.

Customers are advised that fare differences or applicable taxes may apply if they wish to change their bookings to a different fare class.

Emirates Skywards members can also retain tier levels by fulfilling 80 per cent of their travel requirements. Emirates has also increased the percentage of tier miles passengers will earn on all trips made between now and June 30, 2020.

FlyDubai to allow fee-free rebooking

Low-cost airline FlyDubai has suspended flights to several destinations due to restrictions in place to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Any travellers with flights cancelled can rebook free of charge to travel up to 60 days from the original date of travel. If you want to rebook later than 60 days from the original date of travel, fare differences will apply. Customers can also request a full refund.

Passengers that want to change travel plans can rebook without penalties throughout March. Normal fare rules will apply from April 1, 2020.

Since UAE authorities advised people not to travel, a spokesperson for Flydubai said: "We are aware of the statement issued by the Ministry of Health. Passengers should be assured that we are taking all necessary steps as outlined by the international authorities which includes a robust aircraft cleaning programme. Our flights to Bahrain and Iran are cancelled and we are following all travel advisories."

Air Arabia scraps change fees 

Air Arabia's waiver policy applies to all new and existing flight bookings. The largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East and North Africa will allow passengers to change flight bookings without incurring any fees.

Travellers who book flights between now and Tuesday, March 31 for travel until Thursday, December 31 can take advantage of this new waiver policy. The policy also applies to existing Air Arabia bookings.

It applies to all flights across the Air Arabia network, and travellers can make changes fee-free up until 72 hours prior to departure time. Passengers will only pay any fare differences at the time of rebooking.

Other airlines

Elsewhere, several US and European airlines have announced relaxed booking policies for new flight bookings.

The Lufthansa Group was one of the first to introduce flexible rebooking options for both new and existing bookings. 

Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Air Dolomiti has introduced a new waiver policy for rebooking that applies to both existing and future bookings worldwide. 

New tickets booked throughout March will have the option of rebooking once, with no fees applied. 

Travellers with existing flight bookings with departure dates until April 30 can also rebook once, until December 31, 2020 with no change fee. See a complete list of airline updates here.