Etihad Airways suspends all passenger flights

Etihad Airways has announced plans to temporarily suspend all passenger flight operations.

Following an order from the UAE government, the Abu Dhabi-based airline says it will ground all passenger flights from March 25 – initially for two weeks – in a bid to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Cargo and emergency evacuation flights are exempt and will continue.

“These are unprecedented times and unprecedented decisions are being made by governments, authorities and companies, including Etihad, to contain the spread of the coronavirus and to help minimise its effects around the world,” Tony Douglas, CEO of Etihad Aviation Group, was quoted in a statement, as saying.

“As the national airline, we stand in full support of the UAE government’s decision, and are confident that we’re well prepared to weather the commercial and operational impact this suspension will have on our services.”

Guests will be notified if their flight is cancelled. However, prior to proceeding to the airport, all guests should still check the status of their flights, using the Etihad Airways Flight Tracker.

“We stand with our loyal customers, who are having to endure disruption and inconvenience to their travel and their daily lives, and we dedicate all our efforts and resources to ensuring we do all we can to assist them with their travel planning during this challenging period,” Douglas said.

Etihad had last week reduced the frequency on the Abu Dhabi-Male route to one flight per day from two.

Etihad Airways’ decision follows a similar action by Emirates, which has changed its plans for closing down passenger operations for the third time in 12 hours.

Following an order from the UAE government, the giant Dubai-based airline also says it will ground all passenger flights from March 25, initially for two weeks.

In its first announcement on Sunday afternoon, Emirates said it would cease all passenger operations from Wednesday.

But two hours later, the airline said: “Having received requests from governments and customers to support repatriation of travellers, Emirates will continue to operate passenger and cargo flights to few countries until further notice, as long as borders remain open, and there is demand.”

Now the UAE government has banned all passenger flights for a spell of two weeks.

Etihad Airways and Emirates join 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.

Turkish Airlines, which has a daily service between Istanbul and Male, has suspended its operations to the Maldives as part of a wider scaling back of operations.

Singapore Airlines has also reduced the frequency on its Maldives service to four flights per week from 16 a week.

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, five 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.

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