Coronavirus: 35,000 passengers pass through Abu Dhabi airport on limited flights

So far, 3,300 residents and citizens have arrived back in the country after they were stranded abroad due to Covid-19

Innovations help Abu Dhabi airport fight coronavirus

Innovations help Abu Dhabi airport fight coronavirus
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Abu Dhabi International Airport has welcomed more than 35,000 passengers through its doors on special cargo and repatriation flights over the past few months.

Between March 26 and June 6, a total of 3,300 people, mainly Emiratis, arrived back in the UAE after they were stranded abroad due to flight suspensions introduced to control the spread of Covid-19.

A further 32,000 passengers have been repatriated home during the same period on a number of flights operated by Etihad Airways.

On Wednesday, the airport will begin to welcome transit passengers for the first time since the borders closed with up to 20 flights operating per day.

The flights will arrive from nine destinations including Karachi, Manila, Sydney and Tokyo and will connect to major cities across Europe including Amsterdam, London and Paris.

To prepare for the extra footfall, Mohammed Husain Ahmed, general manager at Abu Dhabi International Airports, said it has introduced “additional safety measures” to ensure the health and safety of passengers and staff.

"For the past three months we have implemented a number of different processes to mitigate the impact of Covid-19," he told The National.

Abu Dhabi Airport. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Government Media Office
More than 35,000 passengers have passed through Abu Dhabi International Airport since March 26. Courtesy: Abu Dhabi Government Media Office

“To align with the measures set out by the UAE government, we have introduced strict social distancing rules between passengers and staff and the mandatory use of face masks and gloves, among others.”

“Our internal staff have been trained to monitor and ensure all additional health and safety rules are being followed by passengers and they are doing an excellent job.”

With swab tests, rapid blood testing and temperature checks carried out on site, the airport has also employed external personnel to help man the testing stations each day, including 13 administration staff and nine nurses.

In addition, 53 elevators located within the terminals have been upgraded with contactless technology, meaning passengers do not have to touch any buttons when calling for a lift.

Abu Dhabi airport's elevators are now contactless

Abu Dhabi airport's elevators are now contactless
How seating in aircraft may look as the world seeks to adapt to the coronavirus. The National
How seating in aircraft may look as the world seeks to adapt to the coronavirus. The National

Three vending machines containing medical protection kits, including face masks and gloves, have also been placed throughout the airport as well as more than 400 hand sanitiser stations.

In total, 143 shield partitions have been placed on 71 check-in and immigration counters and several self-sanitising hand rails have been positioned on escalators in the arrivals and departures terminals.

Since March 2020, passengers arriving into the country have been “restricted” to UAE locals coming home, medical personnel to support local health authorities and individuals flown in under special circumstances.

But with passenger footfall expected to increase in the coming weeks, Mr Ahmed said it was now looking to welcome volunteers to help support airport operations.

“Now we are going to start processing passengers on transit flights from June 10, we are looking to accommodate volunteers within the airport to help manage the flow,” said Mr Ahmed.

“We will offer extensive training and we want residents to contribute and help passengers and citizens throughout their journey at the airport.”

He advised those interested to sign up through the UAE Volunteers platform.

Passenger experience

While the pandemic has disrupted many aspects of daily life, the passenger journey throughout the airport has continued to be relatively hassle-free.

For the majority of travellers departing Abu Dhabi, Mr Ahmed said the process was seamless.

Abu Dhabi Airport. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Government Media Office
Vending machines containing medical protection kits have been placed throughout Abu Dhabi International Airport. Courtesy: Abu Dhabi Government Media Office

All passengers have to undergo temperature checks on entering the airport, which takes “seconds”, and face recognition technology meant passing through checkpoints like immigration was "quick and easy".

Depending on the final destination, he said some passengers would have to undergo a “rapid blood test” prior to check-in, which would take between “10 to 20 minutes”.

“This is an on-the-spot blood test, like a pin prick test that diabetes patients take, that will indicate if a person has any viruses in the body,” he said.

“It is carried out at the request of different countries and results come within minutes.

“It is then at the discretion of the on-site medical team if the person can travel or not. We have not had a lot of cases where people could not travel.”

For passengers arriving into the country, temperature and swab checks are carried out before the immigration gates which add about “10 to 15 minutes to the passenger journey”.