Emirates steps back from suspending all passenger flights, Maldives amongst suspended destinations
Emirates has stepped back from its initial move Sunday to suspend all passenger flights due to the coronavirus crisis after facing pressure from governments.
Instead, the Dubai-based airline will temporarily suspend “most” passenger flights by March 25, with flights still operating to several destinations based on demand and border accessibility.
“Having receiving requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travellers, Emirates will continue to operate passenger and cargo flights to the following countries until further notice, as long as borders remain open, and there is demand: the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, USA, and Canada,” a company statement said Sunday.
“The situation remains dynamic, and travellers can check flight status on emirates.com.”
The company added South Korea to that list shortly after issuing the statement.
The news comes amidst mounting national lockdowns, border closures and flight groundings as the novel coronavirus cases climb around the world.
Emirates began its service to the Maldives in May 1987 using a single Boeing 727 aircraft.
With three times daily non-stop service between Dubai and Male, Emirates has since become a major airline operating to the Maldives and a preferred airline for tourists visiting the island nation from far corners of the world, especially Europe.
The airline has been operating four daily services to Male from October 27, 2019 to March 28, 2020, in accordance with winter schedules. It also deployed its latest Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft, fitted with the ‘Game Changer’ First Class suites, on its Dubai-Male route from June 1, 2019.
Emirates joins a host of other international airlines with operations to the Maldives that are scaling back their operations amidst the global economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has announced plans to adjust frequency on its Maldives service to one flight per day from March 23.
Bangkok Airways has announced similar cancellations and frequency reductions.
The global coronavirus outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.
On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago. Eleven more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels — were later identified.
However, three out of the 13 have made full recoveries, whilst the rest are being treated at designated quarantine facilities.
Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.
The public health emergency declaration has allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including a ban on inter-island travel of tourists, including for excursions and between resort islands.
A nationwide shut down of all guesthouses and city hotels has also been ordered. Spa facilities located on inhabited islands have also been closed.
The Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from some of the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Visitors from three regions of Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), two regions of France (Île-de-France and Grand Est) and two regions of South Korea are also banned from entering the country.
All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran had also been cancelled.
Cruise ships and foreign yachts had also been banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.
The island nation had installed thermal screening cameras at its international airports.
Quarantine facilities, including designated islets from the 1,192 islands that make up the archipelago, had been established.