Ever since suspending all of its scheduled passenger service in March 2020, Etihad Airways was eager to resume flights, if only to one destination. However, as the UAE government keeps COVID-19 travel restrictions in place, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier had once again pushed forward the due-date on when this could happen.
All flights remain currently suspended, Etihad Airways’ website warns customers on April 27, 2020. In its most recent estimations, the carrier planned to reinstate scheduled service by May 1, 2020. However, it now expects to resume scheduled flights no earlier than May 16, 2020.
“While Etihad hoped to resume a reduced network of scheduled passenger services from 1 May, subject to UAE government-imposed travel restrictions being lifted, the airline will now delay this plan until at least 16 May, due to the ongoing situation,” Etihad spokeswoman told Reuters.
Whether or not the flights will be resumed on May 16 hinges upon government-imposed travel restrictions and travel demand.
After the United Arab Emirates government banned all passenger flights to and from the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, Etihad Airways suspended most of its passengers-carrying flights from March 25, 2020. The halt was initially expected to last at least until April 8th, but likely more.
On April 16, 2020, the carrier said it planned to operate a reduced network of scheduled passenger services from May 1 to June 30, with the aim of gradually returning to a fuller schedule once the global situation improved. The plan was subject to the UAE government’s decision to lift travel restrictions on passenger travel.
While its scheduled passenger service is on complete halt, similarly to other UAE airlines, Etihad now operates a number of repatriation passenger flights for foreign citizens in 14 destinations countries from Abu Dhabi.
Between March 25 and April 16, it counted over 500 special flights, including both passenger and cargo flights. On April 24, it announced a new round of special passenger flights originating from Abu Dhabi.
The destinations on the newest list include flights to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Chicago, Frankfurt, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, London, Manila, Melbourne, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, and Zurich.
However, these flights are still far from normal service, as they would allow “foreign nationals in the UAE the opportunity to travel out of the country, and allow Etihad to carry essential belly-hold cargo such as perishables, pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies,” as the airline outlined. “Return flights are also repatriating UAE nationals back to Abu Dhabi.”