Emirate’s airline is preparing for a summer travel surge over the next two weekends, despite growing concern over the delta coronavirus variant responsible for more than a third of infections across the United Arab Emirates.
Emirates is expecting more than 450,000 passengers to travel from, to and through Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport (DXB) on over 1,600 flights in the coming days.
“The busiest days for the airline will be the next two weekends, 2-3 July, and 9-10 July, although high passenger traffic is expected to start today, and will run through 12 July,” Emirates said in a statement on Wednesday.
Close to 100,000 passengers will be arriving in Dubai on Emirates flights to start their summer vacations during that same period, the airline added. The seasonal travel surge comes as temperatures heat up in the UAE, where July can see the mercury soar to 40 degrees Celsius and above.
Emirates, one of two national flag carriers in the UAE, plans to ramp up its flight capacity to 90% of pre-pandemic levels through July. Dubai Airports also reopened its Terminal 1 and Concourse D on June 24, after a 15-month closure due to the pandemic.
“All Emirates and DXB touchpoints are fully prepared to manage the increase in passenger traffic, with measures and protocols in place designed to enhance safety as customers move through Terminal 3,” Emirates said.
The more than half million people expected to transit the UAE in the coming days is almost equivalent to the entire passenger traffic of London’s Heathrow Airport in May this year, according to Heathrow Airport data.
Etihad Airways also moved to extend its “verified to fly” program on Wednesday. The program allows travellers to validate Covid-19 travel documents before arriving at the airport to improve passenger processing time.
“We appreciate these are challenging times for travellers and this has been a key initiative to simplify our guests’ journeys as much as possible,” John Wright, Etihad’s vice president for global airports and network operations said in a statement.
Delta Variant Concerns
The expected summer travel surge comes despite new warnings about the delta variant of the virus, with evidence showing it is more transmissible, causes more hospitalizations and reduces the efficacy of vaccines. The delta variant, first identified in India, makes up 33.9% of cases in the UAE, according to the UAE Health Department.
The U.K. variant makes up 11.3% of cases, while the South African variant still has the largest infection rate at 39.2%. The UAE reported 1,747 new cases of the virus on Tuesday.
Forty percent of the UAE’s approximately 10 million population are now fully inoculated, according to Johns Hopkins University. The high local vaccination rate, new flight routes and easing restrictions on vacation hotspots have given locals and residents the confidence and desire to travel again, even amid warnings about dangerous coronavirus variants.
Emirates has vowed to maintain strict safety measures for those travelling. The airline was one of the first globally to pilot the IATA Travel Pass, which will be extended to all routes across its network in the coming weeks. Emirates has also partnered with Al Hosn, the UAE Covid tracing app, to support safe passenger movement.
“Emirate’s customers can travel with assurance that the airline and its partners have spared no effort to make the airport journey as safe and smooth as possible,” the airline said.
By Joe Cusmano