As the United Kingdom introduces new measures to control the spread of COVID-19, namely adding more countries to its travel ban list, there is no doubt that this will impact demand for travel in and out of the UK. One of the added countries was the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The two countries hosted the world’s busiest route in 2021 – from Dubai to London, which was served by Emirates with the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 777. So, how many of the airline’s aircraft could potentially be grounded amidst the new restrictions?
The measures, which include a 10-day quarantine for British, Irish and third country nationals with residence permits in the island, will prohibit direct flights from UAE, Burundi and Rwanda. According to the country’s Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, all passengers will still have to provide a negative test upon arrival and fill out the Passenger Locator Form, or else face a £500 ($684) for each infraction.
The flight ban could potentially have a significant impact on the two UAE-based carriers, namely Emirates and Etihad Airways. The latter was one of the airlines that operated on the world’s busiest international route so far in 2021. According to OAG data, the two carriers scheduled over 190,000 seats between Dubai International Airport (DXB) and London Heathrow Airport (LHR) for the month of January 2021. For comparison, the second busiest international route was between Cairo, Egypt and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with over 154,000 seats.
Emirates could possibly one of the most exposed airlines to the announced travel restrictions. The airline operates to several British airports, including Birmingham Airport (BHX), Glasgow International Airport (GLE), London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and Manchester Airport (MAN). The carrier flew its flagship Airbus A380 aircraft to LHR and MAN, on flight EK1, flight EK3 and flight EK17. In total, since January 25, 2021, six different A380s had completed scheduled flights to the two British airports: A6-EVC, A6-EVG, A6-EVN, A6-EVK, A6-EUR and A6-EUT.
In addition to the six aforementioned double-deckers, seven different Emirates Boeing 777-300ER flew to the British capital from Dubai, on flight EK5 and flight EK7, according to flightradar24.com. Five extra 777s have also flown to BHX and GLE in the last four days.
“As directed by the UK government, Emirates will be suspending passenger services between Dubai and all our UK points – Birmingham, Glasgow, London, Manchester – effective 1300hrs GMT on 29 January 2021 until further notice,” an Emirates spokesperson told AeroTime News. “Emirates remains committed to serving our customers in the UK. We look forward to resuming passenger services when conditions allow and will continue to work closely with all relevant authorities in this regard.”
Meanwhile, British Airways flew daily from LHR to DXB with an Airbus A350-1000 (registered as G-XWBC), while Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways operated three daily flights to LHR and one daily flight to BHX from Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Emirates resumed operations of the Airbus A380 in July 2020, following four months of all of the airline’s Super Jumbos placed in storage due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions. The first flight since coming out of storage for the carrier’s A380s was from Dubai to London.