Travel guide: what to know before flying with Emirates and Etihad this Christmas

Updated travel rules and regulations mean passengers must prepare for last minute changes

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Fresh guidelines have been issued by Emirates Airline to support travellers planning to fly home for the festive season.

Disruption caused by the emerging Omicron strain of Covid-19 has caused concern for travellers, as borders have closed in southern and western Africa and flights have been cancelled around the world.

So far, the UK has recorded 134 cases of the new variant, but with no reported deaths directly related to the variant.

With many nations imposing different restrictions and travel protocols, it has created a complex network of new rules and options for those flying over the coming weeks.

What has changed?

The UK has made pre-departure PCR tests mandatory for all arrivals to ensure those entering the country have a negative result.

More stringent travel requirements will come into force from 4am on Tuesday, December 7 with all new arrivals over the age of 11 required to submit a negative lateral flow or PCR test taken a maximum of 48 hours before departure.

People currently only need to self-isolate until they test negative within two days of arrival, but that could change as the UK government is set to review its travel protocols on December 18.

In the US, changes from Monday to inbound passenger requirements include a negative Covid-19 test within one day of travel, rather that the 72 hours pre-travel test result previously required.

In India, authorities have postponed the resumption of international flights until at least December 15 amid growing concern over the spread of Omicron.

How to cancel a flight

One piece of good news for those booked on an Emirates flight is that if plans change their ticket can be used for up to two years after a booking is made.

The extension applies on flights due before May 31, 2022, for passengers who booked on or after October 1, 2020.

Passengers can rebook on another flight to the same destination and in the same cabin class with no extra fees.

Emirates' first Premium Economy cabin on the airline's brand-new A380 superjumbo will be deployed to London Heathrow for its first destination. Courtesy Emirates

Changes can be made up to 36 months after the original booking was made, with no additional fees.

Passengers can also request a full refund if their travel plans have changed or are uncertain, although they must pay any related service charges and taxes.

Anyone travelling with Etihad can also rebook flights without charge before May 31, 2022, but passengers will have to pay the difference if there is a price increase to the original fare booked.

Cancelled flights will get the cost of your ticket placed into your travel bank account, which can then be used towards the next flight booked.

You can request a refund from Etihad if either your flight is cancelled, government restrictions mean you are unable to travel, or if you present a positive PCR result between 96-24hrs before your departure time.

Does my ticket still include free Covid-19 insurance?

Yes, but it has changed. Free multi-risk travel insurance offered by Emirates implemented during the pandemic will no longer apply on tickets booked after December 1, 2021.

It has been replaced with the airline’s Covid-19 medical travel insurance cover instead.

The policy automatically applies to passengers booked to fly from December 1 to March 31, 2022 and offers coverage for Covid-19-related medical costs up to $175,000.

Attendants stand the logo of the long-haul carrier Emirates at the Dubai Air Show.  AP Photo

It includes emergency medical evacuation and repatriation for policyholders testing positive for the virus while overseas.

Unexpected quarantine expenses are covered for up to 14 consecutive days, at a daily cost of $115, and valid for 31 days post departure.

Every Etihad Airways ticket for travel up to March 31, 2022 also includes full Covid-19 insurance cover for up to 31 days from departure.

How do I change my ticket?

To update a ticket or request a refund, travellers can visit the Manage my Booking page of the Emirates app or Emirates webpage, or contact their travel agent.

If travel is not for the next 48 hours, passengers are encouraged not to call.

Reports of long queues on the general enquiries line may make the online web chat a better option, or the Emirates What’sApp messaging service.

Similarly, Etihad tickets can be changed by visiting the Etihad webpage, or by contacting the relevant travel agent.

Updated: December 07, 2021, 9:19 AM