The UAE’s major airlines shut dozens more routes on Sunday, as the worsening coronavirus pandemic forced more governments around the world to close their borders and millions were told to self-isolate in their homes.
As of Sunday, Emirates, flydubai and Etihad have announced the cancellation of 193 routes. The list of affected destinations now includes cities in India, Greece, Indonesia, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Philippines, the United States, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, Pakistan, Mauritius, Germany, Japan, France and Russia.
Airlines worldwide have been grappling for survival amid plummeting passenger numbers due to mounting fears over coronavirus.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) appealed for governments in the Middle East and Africa region on Thursday to provide emergency support, to save carriers from folding up.
It is estimated that in the UAE alone, companies in the air transport industry could lose some $2.8 billion in revenues, while more than 163,000 jobs are at risk.
Across the region, international bookings have already dropped 40 percent year-over-year and airlines have lost $7.2 billion in revenues as of March 11, 2020.
Effective today, 15 Emirates flights are grounded, while 21 more cancellations will take effect from tomorrow. The rest of the affected routes will be closed over the next few days.
Among the cities added to the mounting list of cancelled routes are Ahmedabad, Athens, Auckland (via Bali), Bali, Bengaluru, Brisbane, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Cebu, Clark, Chennai, Chicago, Colombo (via Male), Durban, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Hamburg, Kabul, London Stansted and Melbourne.
The airline had earlier urged its tens of thousands of staff, including cabin crew and pilots, to take unpaid leave, as passengers have put on hold their holiday plans and business trips.
At Etihad Airways, which had also encouraged staff to take their paid vacation early, new route suspensions include Brussels, Kolkata, Kozhikide, Trivandrum, Delhi and Mumbai, among others.
Flydubai, for its part, said it would suspend flights to and from Yerevan, Eritrea and Helsinki, among others.
As of Sunday, the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus has reached more than 300,000. The rate of infection has been growing exponentially since the outbreak exploded in Wuhan, China.
On Tuesday, the European Union agreed to close its external borders to foreign visitors, to slow the spread of the virus.
(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)
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