UAE’s flag carrier – Emirates – has been following all necessary protocols to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. Already covering a network of 120 destinations, Emirates is looking at increasing its capacity further in the coming months
Adnan Kazim, Chief Commercial Officer, Emirates, says that for the airline, the focus has been to put together the right measures before re-introducing flights. He says, “We went through a lockdown at Dubai Airport in March 2020, and then on May 9 we recommenced our service with repatriation operations. We took the time between March and May to ensure that we put the right measures in place in terms of COVID requirements for the health and well-being of our staff and passengers.” These requirements, adds Kazim, included compulsorily wearing the mask, extra sanitisation of flights, mandatory PCR test for passengers travelling on board Emirates irrespective of the destination they travelled from, a second test in Dubai to ensure that people who came to the emirate were safe, and ensuring social distancing at the airport. “We even added the plastic shield so that we could protect our check-in staff at the airport,” he says.
Rebuilding the network
While the pandemic has disrupted operations across the world, for Emirates, recommencing operations was a meticulously planned exercise. “Our focus when we recommenced was more on rebuilding our network. So, we started with 10 stations back in May and gradually increased that. Now we have over 120 destinations in our passenger network, so we have recovered more than 85 per cent of the network that we had earlier. Our focus now will be on bringing back capacity which will purely be determined by the easing of protocols by countries,” he shares.
Kazim adds that as part of thisdrive, Emirates looks forward to the Dubai Expo as a mega event that will help it achieve its goals. “We are already planning for 70 per cent of our pre-COVID capacity to be re-introduced by then, and we hope that with the vaccine roll-out across the world, things will look much better starting from July-August and then gradually entering the winter with more borders being opened and more people being able to travel without restrictions,” he believes.
In the pipeline…
As Emirates looks to vigorously restart its operations in Asia, Kazim says that Bali, Indonesia, is one such example where they would like to soon recover operations in the approaching summer travel season. “Indonesia has signed an air bubble agreement with the UAE, so when the summer travel season commences in July or August, we are quite keen to reintroduce Bali as a destination. We are also looking at reintroducing our capacity to China, adding more capacity into Asia – including India and Sri Lanka. In India, too, we want to ramp up operations. India has an air bubble agreement with the UAE, and we need to gradually reintroduce the capacity that Emirates had here in pre-COVID times, without any restrictions on the flow of people travelling on the visitors’ visa. We, as a company, are quite dynamic and agile to responding to requirements as we see more countries opening gateways and easing protocols to re-engage and re-introduce capacity, and linking countries as soon as possible,” Kazim says.
India – key source market on hold
As a key source market for Dubai, India’s sudden surge in COVID-19 cases has led to closure of borders with the UAE although the two enjoyed a good network with several flights being operated between the two destinations. But, Dubai had to be cautious, being the hub that connects the world, to ensure safety of all passengers and crew, hence, borders were closed April 24 onwards. Commenting on the matter, Kazim says, “First of all, our prayers and thoughts are with India for a fast recovery from what they are going through and I’m sure that the government will put the right measures in place to have that recovery happening as soon as possible. Today, our operations in India are restricted and the air bubble through which we operated 14 daily flights to nine points was not restricted in carrying traffic from Dubai to India. Cargo is also operational and we are extending all the support that India requires from Emirates in mobilising the required COVID equipment. Unfortunately, for the longer term, I can’t say much on operations as decisions regarding opening of borders are driven by the government. We do hope to be back soon.”