Etihad has surprisingly announced it will continue to operate flights departing the UK to Australia despite the country halting inbound commercial flights from the UAE.
The news is a boost for the 40,000 Australians based in the country and struggling to return home and comes despite Dubai-based Emirates pulling its flights.
However, as of 1 February 2021, the vast majority of Etihad flights from London to Sydney this month are selling for around £8,440 – or $15,153.
Last week, there were fears both the key stopover airports of Dubai and Abu Dhabi could be effectively knocked out, limiting options for those returning home to government-supplemented Qantas repatriations.
On Sunday, Etihad said in a statement that all its passenger flights departing the UK remain unaffected and will operate as scheduled.
Sarah Built, Etihad’s VP for Australia and South Asia, said, “To be able to fly passengers out of the UK, Etihad flies vital cargo to London and Manchester, positioning the aircraft to pick up passengers who wish to depart and allow them to return to Australia, within Australian government mandated passenger caps.
“Despite the challenges we face, we remain firmly committed to the Australian market and want to assure our guests we will continue to fly to Australia, supporting them to return home as best we can.
“While we do everything we can to accommodate our guests, we do comply with the Australian government mandate to significantly limit passenger arrivals per flight allowed to disembark at Sydney and Melbourne airports.”
The original UAE inbound flight ban was effective from 1pm on Friday last week (UK time), and came amid increasing concerns that more transmissible foreign variants of COVID could potentially hurt the UK’s vaccination program.
Britons currently in the UAE will now only be able to make their way back via a third country and will then have to quarantine for 10 days, initially at home but later in a hotel when that operation is launched.
British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, “From tomorrow (Friday, 29 January at 1pm), we’re extending our travel ban with the United Arab Emirates, Burundi and Rwanda all added to the UK’s red list.
“This means people who have been in or transited through these countries will be denied entry, except British, Irish and third country nationals with residence rights who must self-isolate for 10 days at home.
“Passengers must still have proof of a negative test and completed Passenger Locator Form before arrival – or could otherwise face a £500 fine for each.”
That news caused fellow UAE airline Emirates to suspend all its flights leaving the country and heading to the key transport hub of Dubai.
Last week, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt moved to reassure Australians abroad.
“The Prime Minister has been clear, if more [government supplemented] flights are needed, more will be provided,” said Minister Hunt.
“We added an extra 20 specific charters, which Simon Birmingham announced a few weeks ago. They were done to make sure that more Australians will come home, so we will have to examine the impact of those particular changes, which we understand and which we respect, and the guidance to Australians is very, very clear.”