UAE-UK travel ban: How can travellers fly home to Britain?

Alternative indirect flight options from Dubai and Abu Dhabi are available via Bahrain, Finland, Athens, Cairo and more

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The UK has banned passenger flights from across the UAE from flying to any airport in Britain. The news has left British citizens currently in Dubai and Abu Dhabi unable to travel home on their original flight plan.

Emirates and Etihad have cancelled all flights from the UAE to any UK airports including London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester. To ease problems for travellers currently in the UAE, authorities have extended tourism visas for UK citizens who are able to travel home, but may face issues doing so due to a lack of available flights. However, while direct flights are no longer allowed to operate from the UAE to the UK, indirect options can continue.

Both Emirates and Etihad operate to several other destinations in Europe, and many other airlines can take travellers from the UAE to the UK, via a stopover in another city.

Currently, only those with British or Irish passports or residence rights for the UK can enter Britain and travellers who take an indirect route home will still have to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival, owing to having been in the UAE in the last 10 days. All travellers flying to the UK must also have a negative Covid-19 test result before boarding a flight.

Here are some of the alternative options available for travellers trying to return to the UK from Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Go with Gulf Air via Bahrain

Perhaps the option that adds the least number of air miles for travellers in the UAE, Bahrain is operating flights to the UK.

Bahrain's new passenger terminal opened on Thursday. Courtesy Sarah Loch
Bahrain's new passenger terminal opened on Thursday. Courtesy Sarah Loch

Gulf Air, the national airline of Bahrain operates daily flights to London with one-way fares from Dh1,210. Emirates, Etihad and Gulf Air all operate flights departing the UAE for Bahrain regularly, so travellers should not have much difficulty getting there to catch another flight.

Transit passengers can fly to Bahrain International Airport, but must make sure that  flight connection times do not exceed 12 hours. While transit passengers do not need a negative Covid-19 test result to fly to the kingdom, travellers will need to have this to fly on to the UK. If you do choose to fly home to the UK via Bahrain, the airport's newly opened terminal building has plenty to keep you occupied when waiting for your next flight.

Flydubai to London via Finland

UK travellers in Dubai can fly to Finland then on to the UK. Unsplash
UK travellers in Dubai can fly to Finland then on to the UK. Unsplash

Low-cost airline flydubai operates to Helsinki in Finland once a week, with flights departing Dubai every Friday. One-way fares for the seven-hour flight are from Dh1,990. Travellers flying to the Finnish capital can book onwards to London via Finnair or British Airways who both fly the three-hour route on a daily basis. Fares from Helsinki to London are available for less than Dh1,000.

While Finland is closed for tourism, borders are partially open for transit passengers, so long as travellers do not leave the transit area of Helsinki Airport. Passengers arriving in Finland may have to undergo Covid-19 scent detection by the airport’s service dogs and any passenger identified as positive, will take a free Covid-19 test at the airport.

Travel to the UK through Serbia

Aircraft on the ground surrounded by ground equipment and staff
flydubai ofers low-cost flights from Dubai to Belgrade, from where UK travellers can fly direct to London. Courtesy flydubai

Low-cost airline flydubai operates to Serbia’s capital Belgrade five times per week, from where travellers can take an Air Serbia or Wizz Air flight direct to London Heathrow.

From Dubai, fares for the six-hour non-stop flight are from Dh1,700. One-way fares to the UK from Belgrade are from Dh350. Serbia is not open for tourism, but transit passengers are allowed to enter Belgrade International Airport if flight connection times do not exceed 12 hours.

Book an EgyptAir flight to London

EgyptAir flies direct to London and Cairo International Airport is open to transit passengers.
EgyptAir flies direct to London and Cairo International Airport is open to transit passengers.

Several airlines operate from Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Sharjah to Egypt including Emirates, Etihad, EgyptAir, Air Arabia, flydubai and Royal Jordanian.

The flight time is around four hours. For the easiest option, you can book a single ticket with EgyptAir that will take you from Abu Dhabi to London, via a stopover in Cairo.

Fares for this route are from Dh1,300, but travellers should expect a long journey. More expensive fares with shorter connections times are also available.

Transiting in Egypt is open, and no additional PCR tests are required so long as travellers do not leave the terminal building at Cairo International Airport.

EgyptAir also offers a transit accommodation service for journeys with a stopover of more than eight hours, but travellers who want to use this will need a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours to be eligible for the service.

At Cairo International Airport, face masks are compulsory, social distancing measures are in place and transit passengers should expect to be temperature checked upon arrival.

Stop-over in Greece

Fly from Dubai to Athens then onwards to London. Unsplash
Fly from Dubai to Athens then onwards to London. Unsplash

Emirates is flying five times per week to Athens, from where flights are available to the UK's capital. The Dubai airline’s website states that travellers flying into Greece are exempt from the countries stringent entry restrictions so long as “they remain at the airport transit area and do not exit the airport during the transit time.”

One-way fares from Dubai to Athens with Emirates are from Dh2,060. Direct flights from Athens to London are available daily via Aegean Airlines, and fares for the four-hour flight are from Dh1,805.

Go via Doha airport

Hamad International Airport, Doha. Unsplash
Hamad International Airport, Doha. Unsplash

With flights operating again between the UAE and Qatar, transiting via Doha is another option for travellers trying to get home to the UK.

Qatar Airways flies daily to London, it also operates to Manchester and codeshares with British Airways for onward flights to Newcastle, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

One-way fares to London are from Dh3,250, and fares from the UAE to Doha with flydubai are from Dh803.

While Qatar is not yet open for tourism purposes, transit passengers can fly there without a transit visa, so long as they remain inside the Hamad International Airport.