Air travel bubbles and agreements have initiated a ‘new normalcy’ and airlines are taking great efforts to ensure passenger safety. Major UAE- based airlines, such as Emirates, Etihad, flydubai, and Air Arabia, are all gradually resuming flights to routes across the globe.
Initiatives such as affordable and accessible pre-travel Covid-19 testing, stringent social distancing measures at airports and the launch of the CommonPass travel initiative is making international air travel more attractive to people across the region.
Affordable pre- departure Covid-19 testing
Major airlines and healthcare facilities are now offering mandatory pre-departure real-time RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test at affordable prices in the UAE.
Tests for passengers travelling by Emirates is offered at a special rate of Dh150 at American Hospital, Dubai Media City Clinic, American Hospital, Al Barsha Clinic and American Hospital, Al Khawaneej Clinic. Test results will be available within 48 hours. “Passengers must present a valid ticket/boarding pass – departure within one month of test date – and ID to take the Covid-19 PCR test at these rates,” said the airline.
The Emirates airline testing partner is also offering home or office testing within Dubai for a minimum of two passengers is also available at Dh250.
Flydubai is also offering special rates for RT-PCR testing. “Aster DM Healthcare is offering flydubai passengers PCR testing at Dh180 per test while NMC Healthcare is testing will cost passengers Dh150 per test. The test report will be issued within 24 to 48 hours of testing.”
Flydubai is also offering a free global cover for Covid-19 medical expenses.
The PCR test is not required for connecting passengers, explained Emirates Airlines. “It is only mandatory for those arriving from some countries and when the destination country requires it,” it added.
Test exceptions are provided to children under the age of 12, people with severe disabilities, and UAE nationals need to be tested only upon arrival in the UAE.
Test prices included on flights from Abu Dhabi
Tickets on Etihad Airways will include PCR testing between October 1 and December 31 this year for flights departing from Abu Dhabi. The offer excludes flights to China. “Passengers must book their visit at any Life Dx authorised sample collection facility in the UAE, or arrange for your sample to be collected from your home if they are flying in Business or First,” said the airline.
Moreover, a Covid-19 global wellness insurance cover is included with every Etihad Airways ticket.
For travellers to and from Sharjah, travel is now permitted for all citizens and residents through the ports of Sharjah to or from any destinations. However, all travellers must assess the Covid-19 situation of the countries they are planning to visit. Both tourists and residents must ensure they have adequate health insurance
Future of safe travel: CommonPass trials launched
On Sunday, The Commons Project and the World Economic Forum announced international trials for CommonPass, a digital health pass for travellers to securely document their certified Covid-19 test status while keeping their health data private.
According to a World Economic Forum blog, the CommonPass serves as a neutral platform which creates the interoperability needed for the various ‘travel bubbles’ to connect and for countries to trust one another’s data by leveraging global standards.
Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific announced trials are to begin between London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore with Cathay Pacific Airways and United Airlines, enabling travellers to start sharing certified Covid-19 test status across borders for the first time. The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be observing the trials.
“Deployments are planned with additional airlines and routes across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East in quick succession,” read the release.
To use the facility, travellers need to take a Covid-19 test at a certified lab and upload the results to their mobile phone. They then complete any additional health screening questionnaires required by the destination country.
With test results and questionnaire complete, CommonPass confirms a traveller’s compliance with the destination country entry requirements and generates a QR code. That code can be scanned by airline staff and border officials. A QR code can be printed for users without mobile devices, said the release.
“Without the ability to trust Covid-19 tests – and eventually vaccine records – across international borders, many countries will feel compelled to retain full travel bans and mandatory quarantines for as long as the pandemic persists,” said Dr Bradley Perkins, chief medical officer of The Commons Project and former chief strategy and innovation officer at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meanwhile, Christoph Wolff, head of mobility at the World Economic Forum, said, “Bans, bubbles and quarantines may provide short term protection, but developed and developing nations alike need a long-term, flexible, and risk-based approach like CommonPass.”
How to plan a holiday abroad or that emergency business trip
Research: For those departing from the UAE, check the IATA Travel Centre website to understand if any restrictions are in place at your destination of travel.
Airfare: Find the right fare type to suit your travel needs and budget.
Notes for in-bound passengers:
Procure pre-travel approvals: If you hold a Dubai-issued residence visa, make sure you can obtain an approval from Dubai’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) to return to Dubai before booking your flight. Without approval to return to Dubai, you will not be accepted for travel.
Other Emirates: If you hold a residence visa issued by any other emirate, you will need to confirm your entry/re-entry to the UAE at uaeentry.ica.gov.ae before booking your flight
Pre-travel Covid-19 requirements: Check for the country of destination’s RT-PCR testing requirements. The UAE asks for a test that is valid for 96 hours from the time of sample collection. Schedule your test accordingly. If there is a home service available in your home country, opt for it.
Make sure the test result is negative: Procure a negative Covid-19 test result. You must be able to present a printed copy of your negative Covid-19 PCR test result in English or Arabic at check-in to be accepted for travel
Get insurance: If you’re on a visit visa, get medical coverage for Covid-19. Etihad Airways and flydubai offer this service for free along with the air ticket.
Checklist on the day of your flight:
> Ensure that you are in good health and eligible to travel
> Keep PPE kits, sanitisation kits and personal hygiene
> Check-in online and download or print your boarding pass
> Arrival at least three to four hours before flight time
> Wear your mask correctly throughout all stages of the journey
> Observe and follow social distancing rules
> Maintain personal hygiene at all times
> Keep your children safe
> Follow instructions set by the airline, airport staff, and observe signs placed at buses, gates, and air bridges
(Source: flydubai, Air Arabia)