UAE's air traffic increases by 200% in October

Senior aviation official says about 1,000 aircraft used the country's airspace each day in October

Traffic in the UAE's airspace increased by 200 per cent this month compared with six months ago, when travel was restricted owing to Covid-19.

Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the UAE's General Authority of Civil Aviation , said about 1,000 aircraft used the country's airspace each day in October, compared with about 500 planes in April.

Mr Al Suwaidi told state news agency Wam that the negative effect the pandemic had on the aviation industry was "gradually fading away".

He credited this revival to "practical solutions and stringent precautionary measures" introduced by the government to allow flights to operate safely.

DUBAI, UAE. January 30, 2014 - Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director general of UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, speaks at the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority conference at Conrad Hotel in Dubai, January 30, 2014.  (Photo by: Sarah Dea/The National, Story by: Shereen Elgazzar, Business)

He said this allowed the industry to recover as quickly as it had, while limiting the spread of the virus.

The UAE, along with many other countries, grounded all passenger flights in late March to prevent the spread of the virus.

Repatriation flights for Emiratis who were abroad and residents who wished to return to their home countries continued during the past seven months.

The global aviation industry has taken a major financial hit because of the virus. Airlines have significantly reduced their staff and routes in an attempt to cut costs.

Without a second tranche of financial aid, many airlines will not make it through the winter

Global commercial flights in April were down 73.6 per cent compared with the same month the year prior, according to FlightRadar24.

An average of 191,611 flights per day were operated in May last year, but about 110,361 were tracked by FlightRadar24 during the same period this year.

The live air traffic tracker said flight rates were helped by an increase in cargo aircraft flights and passenger aircraft carrying cargo.

Despite the slow resumption of air travel, the International Air Transport Association estimates that job losses in aviation and related industries could climb to 1.7 million in the Middle East in 2020.

Last week, the association renewed calls for governments to extend financial support to airlines to help them overcome the crisis.

"Airlines continue to burn through cash and it is expected to persist into next year. Without a second tranche of financial aid, many airlines will not make it through the winter," said Alexandre de Juniac, director general and chief executive of the association.

It estimates that airline revenue will halve to $419 billion in 2020 because of the crisis.

"The Covid-19 pandemic remains an existential crisis and airports, airlines and their commercial partners need direct and swift financial assistance to protect essential operations and jobs," said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director general of the Airports Council International World.

The two aviation organisations also renewed calls for governments to introduce the widespread and co-ordinated testing of passengers to help the aviation industry recover.

Emirates resumed passenger flights to "select destinations" from mid-April but these were mostly limited to bringing residents back to the UAE.

Travellers required approval from authorities to return to the country and had to follow strict safety measures.

By July, travel restrictions were eased further, allowing travel without approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship.

Safety measures remained in place but Emiratis and residents were able to travel reasonably freely.

Despite the hardships facing airlines around the globe, Abu Dhabi launched two airlines.

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, a joint venture between Sharjah's Air Arabia and Etihad Airways, began operations in July, while Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, a budget airline, was also launched, although its maiden flight was postponed until November 15.