Dubai (AFP) – Emirates, the largest airline in the Middle East, will cover customers’ coronavirus-related medical costs in a bid to “boost travel confidence”, the Dubai Media Office said Thursday.
“Emirates will cover its passengers for COVID-19 related medical expenses and quarantine costs when they travel on board Emirates, to and from the UAE and around the world, free of charge,” the emirate’s media office said in a statement.
The Dubai-based carrier, which operates a fleet of 270 wide-bodied aircraft, halted operations in late March as part of global shutdowns to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Two weeks later, it resumed operations on a limited network and plans to fly to 58 cities by mid-August, down from over 150 before the crisis.
The announcement came shortly after the United Arab Emirates — an alliance of seven emirates including the capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai — made testing mandatory for all inbound and transit passengers starting August 1, according to state media.
“Emirates will be the first airline to offer free cover for COVID-19 medical costs for customers when they travel to & from UAE & around the world,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates group chairman and chief executive, said on Twitter.
“This will boost travel confidence and once again positions Emirates and Dubai as aviation industry leaders.”
Passengers can claim up to 150,000 euros ($173,600) in medical expenses and up to 100 euros per day for 14 days in quarantine costs, should they be diagnosed with the disease, the Dubai Media Office statement said.
“We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually re-open, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel,” Sheikh Ahmed was quoted as saying.
The policy will go into immediate effect and remain in place until October 31, 2020.
The carrier’s president Tim Clark has said that it could take up to four years for operations to return to “some degree of normality,” and the airline could lay off up to 15 percent of its staff.
Before the pandemic crisis hit, Emirates employed some 60,000 staff, including 4,300 pilots and nearly 22,000 cabin crew, according to its annual report.
The airline had reported a bumper 21 percent rise in annual profits in March.