Higher vaccination, eased restrictions to revive international travel, says Emirates

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Dubai-based airline Emirates is optimistic about the revival of international travel as countries ramp up their vaccination efforts with eased restrictions, among others, for Malaysians and residents to drive massive pent-up demand.

KUALA LUMPUR: Dubai-based airline Emirates is optimistic about the revival of international travel as countries ramp up their vaccination efforts with eased restrictions, among others, for Malaysians and residents to drive massive pent-up demand.

Emirates country manager Malaysia Mohammad Al Attar said the airline had been restoring its network since 2020, in line with international borders re-opening.

The airline is currently serving over 120 destinations, representing 90 per cent of its pre-pandemic network.

“Citizens and residents of Malaysia have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to travel abroad for leisure, studies or to visit family and friends they have not seen since the start of the pandemic. As would be expected, pent up demand was evident in the forward bookings we received previously and now, with this announcement, travellers are increasingly confident about making travel plans.

“We are witnessing an increase in flight reservations to those destinations that welcome vaccinated travellers, with no quarantine requirements,” he told the New Straits Times recently.

Mohammad said Malaysia continued to be an important market for Emirates, having served the country for over 25 years.

“We remain committed to serving our customers here. We are delighted to have resumed passenger services between Kuala Lumpur and Dubai since June 2020. We have continuously operated cargo services to Malaysia throughout the pandemic, without disruption, to support the trade and movement of goods between Malaysia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and our global network,” he said.

Mohammad said trust and confidence would be essential to Malaysians travelling internationally at the pre-pandemic level, leveraging on adopted measures such as the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass.

“The concept of the travel pass is trying to be moved fairly quickly. We believe it will be the thing that unlocks national and global economies in terms of air transport and travel and will play a key role in the recovery of the travel industry,” said.

He said Emirates’ biometric paths at Dubai International Airport to enhance health and safety procedures and having a large portion of the staff and crew vaccinated would help ensure passenger safety moving forward as travel resumes.

“When the vaccine rollout is applied equally globally, we find ways and means of ensuring the developing world gets their fair share, then we can look towards a period that will begin to look like normality,” he said.

Mohammad said Emirates had witnessed international air travel picking up across the world as countries rolled out vaccines and achieved the required inoculation rates.

“With the Malaysian government’s decision to allow citizens to travel abroad recently, we saw an increase in bookings to destinations in our network. We have been busy serving that pent up demand from travellers who want to visit family and friends, or resume leisure travel, after being unable to do so for so long,” he said.

Mohammad said this was testament to the success of the country’s vaccination programme.

“The easing of border restrictions for eligible travellers, coupled with the ability for vaccinated travellers to quarantine at home upon their return to Malaysia, is a step forward for the recovery of the tourism industry,” he said.

To ensure the safety of passengers and crew, Emirates has taken into consideration safety protocols and requirements.

Emirates also provides a free Covid-19 medical travel insurance for consumers who buy tickets from December 1, 2021 until March 31, 2022.

The insurance covers Covid-19 related overseas medical expenses and emergency evacuation if customers tested positive for Covid-19 while travelling.

Emirates has grown by leaps and bounds since its launch the route to Kuala Lumpur on 1996.

“We are optimistic of the growth and will continue to reaffirm our commitment to this very important market in our network,” said Mohammad.

Emirates currently operates 11-weekly flights between Kuala Lumpur and hub in Dubai.

He said Emirates was focused on rebuilding its global network, safely, sensibly and sustainably.

“We currently have scheduled passenger flights to over 120 destinations and cargo flights to over 140 points, and we are working to return to 70 per cent of our capacity by the end of the year.”

Mohammad said Emirates’ main priority in Malaysia was to maintain and grow load factors, while on the longer term, the airline would continue to assess and carefully analyse the market (performance and needs) which will determine more opportunities to further expand its presence.

“We want to continue to positively contribute to the country’s tourism and business sectors. We do this through new route launches and resumption of routes since the pandemic, linking the country to other economies and opening opportunities.

“Capacity enhancements and innovative offerings also provide opportunities for growth, including the tourism sector,” he added.

Emirates has resumed flights for passengers from Kuala Lumpur on June 17, 2020, following the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority’s announcement to lift restrictions on transit passenger services and on July 1, 2020, Dubai officially opened for visitors again.

“To put things into perspective and show the recovery of our business and travel demand, in September 2020 we had five flights per week. We currently we operate 11 weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur to serve customers travelling to Dubai and also those travelling onwards to our destinations in our network.

“We also continue to serve our customers in Malaysia, through Kuala Lumpur and via our ongoing codeshare with Malaysia Airlines,” he added.