Emirates to process half a million refunds by Aug

Travellers waiting for refunds for cancelled flights due to the coronavirus pandemic will receive their money back latest by early August, Emirates assured Sunday.

The Dubai-based airline is in the process of processing nearly half a million refund requests after flights were grounded around the world in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

This resulted in an unprecedented number of requests, which subsequently has caused delays in processing times for refunds.

Emirates has now bolstered its operations to be able to process 150,000 refund requests per month. Before the pandemic, the airline handled an average of 35,000 requests per month.

“We are dipping into our cash reserves by being proactive in processing refunds, but it is our duty and responsibility. We would like to assure our customers and trade partners that we will honour refunds, and that we are doing our best to speed things up,” Sir Tim Clarke, President of Emirates Airline, was quoted in a statement, as saying.

Emirates has assured customers that it will clear its current backlog of requests by early August now that its waiver policy has been simplified.

“The situation was dynamic in the early weeks of the pandemic, but we have since rewritten our Covid-19 waiver policy into a simple, globally applied approach that puts customers first,” Clarke said.

Emirates offers passengers three options when it comes to flights that have been affected by cancellations or travel restrictions.

Customers can keep tickets for two years and use them when they are ready to fly. This applies to any tickets booked on or before Tuesday, June 30, 2020 for travel before Monday, November 30, 2020.

Travellers can exchange an unused portion of a ticket for a travel voucher equivalent to the original amount paid. This can be used for any Emirates product or service, and can be used in more than one transaction.

Customers who are unable to travel can also apply for a refund, with no penalties.

Travellers who booked flights via travel agents should contact their agent for assistance, but the same options will apply.

“For those who have opted to hold their tickets or exchange it for travel vouchers, we look forward to welcoming you on our flights again soon. Announcements will be made whenever we are able to resume services,” Clarke said.

Last week, Emirates said it had no confirmed date for restarting most of its regular passenger services.

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.

However, all international airlines had suspended their operations to the Maldives, as the island nation enforced a blanket suspension of on-arrival visa late March in a bid to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Even before the visa suspension, 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, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. 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 were also banned from entering the country.

All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran were also cancelled.

Cruise ships and foreign yachts were also banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.

The 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.

Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.

However, tourist arrivals saw a year-over-year decline of 22.8 per cent in the first 10 days of March. Officials say the number of tourist arrivals to the Maldives could drop by half in 2020.

With arrival numbers falling and the visa suspension in effect, several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.

Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.

However, the government is at present projecting a possible 13 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.

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.

Eighteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except five Maldivians who had returned from abroad — were later identified.

A six-case cluster of locals, detected in capital Male on April 15, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Several more clusters have since been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the Maldives to 191.

No deaths have been reported and 16 have made full recoveries.

The 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 stay-at-home orders in capital Male and its suburbs, a ban on inter-island transport and public gatherings across the country, and a nationwide closing of government offices, schools, colleges and universities.

Non-essential services and public places in the capital such as gyms, cinemas and parks have also been shut.

Restaurants and cafes in the capital have been asked to stop dine-in service and switch to takeaway and delivery.

A nationwide shutdown of all guesthouses, city hotels and spa facilities located on inhabited islands is also in effect.

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