Etihad Airways says it plans to operate a “reduced network of scheduled passenger services” from May 1, subject to the lifting of UAE government-imposed travel restrictions on passenger travel.
The Gulf carrier has been operating a number of special rescue flights to destinations including Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin, London, Melbourne, Tokyo, and Zurich, but this latest move would represent the first scheduled services since the UAE government’s directive to suspend all inbound, outbound and transit passenger flights in the region in late March.
Yet to Give Details
The airline did, however, confirm that its planned launch of flights to Vienna (scheduled for May 22) would be delayed until July 1.
Etihad has not given details of which scheduled routes it will relaunch, but says that the reduced network would operate between May 1 and June 30, “with the aim of gradually returning to a fuller schedule as and when the global situation improves”.
Etihad has been using aircraft downtime as an opportunity to bring forward heavy maintenance checks and is also carrying out a fleet-wide cabin refresh, with all seats being checked individually.
The carrier is also testing new contactless airport technology designed “to help identify medically at-risk travelers”, potentially including those with those with the early stages of COVID-19.
Commenting on the news Tony Douglas, group chief executive officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said:
“The term ‘unprecedented’ is currently the most used in our industry, and the most appropriate. The monumental challenges being faced by all airlines, and our customers, have been beyond measure.
However, we remain cautiously optimistic and will push ahead with our plans to resume normal flying, while striving to better serve and support our customers and our employees.
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“While the intention is to assume a ‘business as usual’ approach to the restart of our operations, the aviation landscape has changed, and how it will look month by month is difficult to predict. This has necessitated a fundamental shift in focus for us.
“However, the cumulative gains achieved by our ongoing transformation, and the unwavering support of our shareholder, has left us in a relatively strong position to withstand any instability. We will pivot on this and act with agility to seize opportunities we may not have previously considered.
“We are implementing a series of network-wide route and fleet efficiencies, while conducting an extensive brand study and trialing new service concepts in our guest experience proposition.
We are also using this time to drive further internal improvements in the efficient use of automation and technology across all areas of the business, while maintaining productivity, creativity and quality.”