Passenger flights in and out of the UAE will be suspended for two weeks from midnight on Wednesday, March 25, the General Civil Aviation Authority said.
The move is designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by air travel and will primarily affect Dubai International Airport, where Emirates has its hub.
"As per the latest UAE government directive, Emirates will temporarily suspend all passenger flights for two weeks from March 25, 2020. These measures are in place for the protection of communities against the spread of Covid-19, and we are in full support," an Emirates Airline representative told The National.
“We look forward to resuming passenger services as soon as feasible. Affected customers should visit emirates.com for more information on rebooking, or contact their travel agents for assistance.”
Dubai International Airport is the world’s busiest airport by international passenger numbers.
Etihad stops accepting transit passengers
Transit travellers can still fly with Emirates into Dubai International Airport until the airline fully closes down passenger operations at midnight on Wednesday, March 25.
However, it's a different set up in the capital. Effective immediately, transit passengers with tickets for travel with Etihad via Abu Dhabi to anywhere else on the airline's network will not be able to fly.
These travellers are advised not to go to the airport.
Emirates passengers can rebook or claim a refund voucher
Emirates’ website advises passengers who had flights booked with the airline for travel within the next two weeks not to contact the airline to cancel bookings.
“You don’t currently need to call us to cancel your booking as we will not charge no-show fees,” the statement on the site states.
“Please, however, complete the travel voucher request form to re-book your flight later.”
Travellers who have had flights cancelled can opt to rebook their flight or request a travel voucher. Rebooking must be for travel undertaken before Tuesday, June 30. It can be to any Emirates destination within the original region and no rebooking fees or fare differences will apply.
If June seems to soon to rearrange trips, travellers can request a travel voucher for the original ticket value, including taxes. This will be issued with a validity of 12 months.
Emirates will continue to operate freighter flights during the suspension of passenger services.
Flights will also be grounded at Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, Abu Dhabi International Airport and Sharjah Airport.
Etihad Airways has its base at Abu Dhabi International Airport and Air Arabia primarily operates from Sharjah.
Cargo and emergency evacuation flights will still operate.
“Additional examination and isolation arrangements will be taken later, should flights resume, in order to ensure the safety of passengers, air crews, and airport personnel and their protection from infection risks,” the CGAA said.
Etihad will inform passengers about cancelled services
Travellers set to fly with Etihad will be notified by the airline if their flight is cancelled. However, the airline advises all travellers to check the status of their flight before travelling to the airport.
The airline has also asked travellers not to contact the call centre unless their flight was scheduled in the period immediately before the suspension of UAE flights at 23.59 on Wednesday, March 25. This is so people with imminent travel can receive assistance in time.
Etihad said it will announce the resumption of services as soon as restrictions are lifted.
“These are unprecedented times and unprecedented decisions are being made by governments, authorities and companies, including Etihad, to contain the spread of the coronavirus and to help minimise its effects around the world," said Tony Douglas, chief executive at Etihad.
The UAE’s civil aviation regulator had already suspended passenger flights to several destinations to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The news comes fewer than 24 hours after Emirates announced it was grounding most flights.
At this time of uncertainty, the GCAA also said its decision would be subject to reassessment.