Emirates and Etihad Airways had a field day managing the heavy volume of queries from stranded passengers and working out alternative plans for them following the suspension of direct flights to the UK.
On Thursday, the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced a ban effective 1pm on Friday for people who have been in or transited through the UAE, Burundi and Rwanda.
Emirates and Etihad Airways, the flag carriers of the UAE, were quick to halt operations from Friday afternoon.
“Our flights to and from the UK are suspended until further notice,” said Emirates Support, the official customer service Twitter channel for Emirates.
“We regret the inconvenience caused, and affected customers should contact their booking agent or Emirates call centre for rebooking.”
However, Etihad maintained that flights from the UK were unaffected.
“All Etihad Airways flights to the UK are suspended until further notice, however flights out of the UK are still operating,” said Etihad Help, the airline’s official guest relations Twitter account. A British national wishing to reach Dubai, can now fly to Abu Dhabi and then travel by road to the emirate.
“Yes, as a British national, you should be eligible for a visa on arrival which means you can land in Abu Dhabi. You will have to transfer to Dubai via our Etihad coach, chauffeur or via the airport taxi in order to avoid the 10 days quarantine in Abu Dhabi,” Etihad Help tweeted in reply to a passenger’s query on travel, quarantine and visa norms for a UK resident.
Similarly, a person can also travel from Paris to Dubai via Abu Dhabi.
“You’re able to fly to Abu Dhabi if you are a UAE national or resident, or if you are eligible for a visa on arrival. There's no quarantine required if your final destination is Dubai,” Etihad Help said.
Transit passengers like S. Sharif, who holds a ticket from Karachi to the UK via Abu Dhabi for next week, were assured rebooking by Etihad as and when the suspension gets revoked.
Meanwhile, Emirates Support told a passenger seeking a return from Manchester to Dubai on February 5 that it would “check alternative route options” for a return from the UK though Europe to Dubai.
Both the airlines’ call centres have been experiencing high volume of phone calls and hence had a long waiting period. They have urged passengers to contact travel agencies to rebook their tickets, if it is issued through them.
Etihad Airways in a statement said: “If your plans have been affected, we’ll keep your ticket open for you to book whenever you’re ready. You don’t have to contact us straight away to change your flight.”
The new set of precautionary measures from the UK come in the wake of the spread of the new coronavirus strain that emerged in South Africa.
The UAE, meanwhile, has announced free-of-cost extension of visit visas for British travellers affected by the suspension of flights.
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