UK red list: Dubai airport chief hopeful of UAE move to amber

Paul Griffiths says a better situation in India could allow flights to resume next month

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The boss of Dubai Airports has said he is hopeful of the UAE moving to the UK's amber travel list soon – allowing arriving passengers to avoid the UK’s "dreaded" 10-night hotel quarantine.

Paul Griffiths predicted the Emirates would remain on the UK red list for "a bit longer" before moving to the next stage down.

Under Boris Johnson's government’s current rules – which are up for review on Monday afternoon – travellers coming from amber list countries must quarantine for 10 nights at home, rather than at a government-managed hotel, which costs about £1,750 (Dh8,900) for every person.

Travellers on the amber list must take a Covid-19 test on day two and day eight, and can take an additional test on day five to leave quarantine early.

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It could be that we'll be on the amber list, which means if you go straight to the UK you will be exempt from the dreaded hotel quarantine - which everyone is loathing at the moment
Paul Griffiths, Dubai Airports

"I believe that over the next week, we may get some good news, although I wouldn't be surprised if we stay on the red list for a little bit longer," he told Dubai Eye radio's Business Breakfast.

"It could be that we'll be on the amber list, which means if you go straight to the UK you will be exempt from the dreaded hotel quarantine, which everyone is loathing at the moment. So, fingers crossed."

Mr Griffiths said he hoped that the situation in India, one of the UAE's biggest markets for inbound holidaymakers, would improve in the next month.

In the past, India accounted for 32 per cent of traffic through Dubai International Airport. It was the airport's most important single market, he said, but the passenger ban has been extended by Emirates airline until July 15 and by Etihad until July 21, in line with broader government rulings.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates- Paul Griffitts, CEO of Dubai Airports at the Dubai Airshow 2019 at Maktoum Airport.  Leslie Pableo for the National

"It had a big impact not just on arrivals and departures to and from Dubai, but obviously traffic flows from India to the US are very important for us, and DXB has long been a gateway for those heading west from India," he said.

"We're hopeful by the end of July, that will be a situation that may recover itself if the infection rate, and the general hospitalisation rate in India, improves."

At Dubai International Airport, passenger travel has spiked significantly over the last two weekends.

More than 550,000 passengers have passed through the airport, the highest number it has experienced since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are something like 69 per cent down, but the good thing is that we're serving 66 per cent of destinations, which is a pretty good number, and 89 per cent of the countries, pre-pandemic, are being served," Mr Griffiths said.

"We've also got 77 per cent of the pre-Covid number of airlines back at DXB."

There are various ways to track passenger traffic through an airport, including how much luggage people take with them.

"Bag numbers, which is always a good indicator, exceeded something like 66,000 in a single day, on Thursday last week, which is the largest we've had for some time," Mr Griffiths said.

"Over the last weekend and over the month of June, we've seen some recovery, and we're going to do over two million passengers during the course of July.

"This is about 25 per cent of the normal number, but we're hoping that by September we will see much, much stronger growth, and that's our focus – to be ready for that surge in growth, which we think will come."

Latest UAE flight and travel restrictions

People passing through the airport are mostly travelling to Northern Hemisphere countries, with the US, France and Italy being among the most popular destinations.

The UAE has struck several deals with European countries to create travel corridors for its citizens and residents.

Vaccinated travellers can now fly to a number of destinations with no quarantine requirements. These include Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Russia, the US and Bahrain.

However, UAE officials have also recommended that only vaccinated people should travel this summer. They have prohibited Emiratis from travelling to 14 countries, including India, Pakistan and South Africa.

The other countries on that list are: Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Namibia, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

There are flight restrictions between UAE and a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Updated: July 05, 2021, 1:52 PM
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