The day the UAE skies fell silent: striking images show vanishing regional flights

All flights into and out of the country were grounded for two weeks at midnight last night

Two images, one from February 25 and one from March 25, illustrate the impact flight restrictions have had on air traffic in the region. FlightRadar24 
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This morning, the UAE awoke to a very different, less airborne world.

As of midnight last night, a two-week ban of commercial flights departing from and arriving into the UAE came into force.

The grounding of passenger flights was brought forward by 48 hours in a last-minute decision by the General Civil Aviation Authority. They were initially due to be stopped at midnight on Thursday.

UAE skies clear as flights are grounded

UAE skies clear as flights are grounded

The move is designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by air travel and will primarily affect Dubai International Airport, the busiest airport in the world by passenger numbers, where Emirates has its hub.

And now, as neighbouring countries also ground flights and India enters a 21-day total lockdown with a ban on domestic flights, the skies aren't just clear above the UAE, they're clearing across the region.

Flight tracking service FlightRadar24 has laid that fact bare with striking images that compare the regional skies today, March 25, and one month ago on February 25.

The image from February 25 shows congested skies primarily over India and the corridor between Kuwait and the UAE. The image from March 25 shows all but clear skies, with a handful of flights in operation. There are a whopping 700 less flights in the air in the second image.

Two of the last flights to depart from the UAE before the ban came into place, were a Skyup Airlines (a Ukrainian low-cost airline) flight from Sharjah to Kiev, and an Air China flight from Dubai to Beijing.

They also posted a photo showing what a normal 4am (00:00 UTC time) set of departure flights looks like above the UAE. This showed an almost endless stream of flights headed from the Emirates towards Iraq, many headed across to India, and several others headed south and north.

However, today, that picture is starkly different.

As of 10am, the tracking map simply shows a yellow blob of flights stacked upon each other at their bases in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with a couple of lone flights airborne around Al Ain, off the coast of Oman and over Sharjah.

However, plane spotters looking to the skies during this temporary suspension aren’t completely out of luck – several airlines will continue to fly cargo flights in and out of the country, providing food and more, as these are exempt from the directive. So too are transit flights.


Read more:

The 38 countries where commercial passenger flights have been grounded due to the coronavirus

UAE to ground all passenger flights in and out of the country

15,000 tests without a single positive: inside Abu Dhabi airport during the coronavirus crisis