Emirates airline has received special approval from UAE authorities to restart a limited number of passenger flights, its chairman has announced.
Dubai's airports are not currently operating commercial flights because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum announced on Thursday that the airline would commence flights on Monday, April 6.
"Emirates has received approval from UAE authorities to start flying a limited number of passenger flights," he said.
"These flights will initially carry travellers outbound from the UAE."
In a statement, Emirates later said that they would operate four flights a week from Dubai to London Heathrow, and three flights per week to Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels and Zurich.
Flights would operate from Dubai International Airport's Terminal 2, until further notice.
The flights will be one way, transporting both passengers and cargo, and the return leg to Dubai will carry cargo only.
Emirates' Boeing 777-300ER aircrafts would fly on these routes, offering seats in Business and Economy class.
Tickets will be available on the Emirates website.
For health and safety reasons, several aspects of the inflight services would be suspended during the flights. This meant no print material or magazines, and while food and beverages would be offered, the packaging and presentation would be altered to "reduce contact during meal service".
The Emirates lounge and chauffeur service will not be available.
Etihad will continue to offer special flights, too. From April 5, the Abu Dhabi-based airline will operate a regular service to a number of destinations starting with Seoul Incheon, followed by Melbourne, Singapore, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta and Amsterdam. These destinations are subject to government approvals.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation also carried a statement about the flights via Wam, confirming that these were special flights rather than commercial flights resuming from the UAE.
They would be solely for the purpose of evacuating residents and visitors who wish to leave the UAE and return to their home country.
Residents and visitors who wanted to purchase tickets would need to coordinate with their country's embassy.
Earlier today, in an interview with Al Arabiya, Adel Al Rida, executive director of operations at Emirates, said US routes could follow the European centres.
There was a "demand and necessity" to operate flights to the US, he said.
"Our aim is to find a way for citizens and residents in UAE to fly to their countries."
When asked when flight operations would resume as usual, he said the question had "puzzled millions of people who wish for things to go back to normal".
"Officials and authorities from all over the world are making an effort to stop the spread of the virus. I pray in the next few days to see a decline in coronavirus cases and everything to go back to normal."
In another tweet after the announcement of the resumption of passenger services, Sheikh Ahmed said the airline looked forward to the "gradual resumption of passenger services" over time, in line with the lifting of travel restrictions.
Some UAE figures have suggested this move could signal the first signs of that happening.
Hend Al Otaiba, director of strategic communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responded to the Emirates news on Twitter, saying that the UAE was nearing the point of "gradual, controlled easing of travel instructions".
"Transport and logistics are part of the DNA of the country, so the UAE will do everything to restore connectivity ASAP," she said.
Emirates, the world’s biggest carrier by international traffic, suspended most of its passenger flights on March 25 due to the “unprecedented” impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which has hit air travel demand and led to border closures globally.