Stock London Heathrow Airport UK Britain passengers
UK's placement of the UAE and Qatar has more to do with external factors, according to the IATA chief. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Airlines from the UAE and Qatar have seen a “significant” impact on their passenger traffic numbers from the closing of India's aviation market, says Willie Walsh, Director-General of IATA.

“The traffic flows from India and the Subcontinent over the Middle East and into Europe and beyond had been one of the great successes for carriers in the region,” said Walsh. “It's understandable that some restrictions have been put in place, but again, evidence shows that the situation is coming under control.

"But there's still some distance to go. It was probably one of the factors that influenced the British government to put Qatar and UAE on their 'red list'.”

Walsh said that authorities in UK were concerned about the ‘Delta’ variant of the COVID-19 virus, first identified in India. “These issues really do need to be addressed on a scientific basis. The scientific evidence that we have shows that all the vaccines are effective against these variants.”

Flights from India to UAE are suspended until July 6, as per the latest update from an Indian airline. UAE airlines are yet to announce any further extension to the suspension of flights.

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Rising market share

In 2020, the share of Middle East airlines in international traffic rose to 15 per cent. This was largely due to Emirates airline and Qatar Airways operating a lot of their routes. Qatar Airways, in particular, continued to operate “significant networks” during the pandemic and facilitated a lot of international connectivity, where other airlines were either unable to operate or stopped operating for financial reason, said Walsh.


“We're seeing markets opening - several countries have now formally stated that they will allow people who are fully vaccinated to travel without restriction,” said Walsh. “That's a very positive development.”

The UAE has signed travel corridor agreements with European countries like Spain and Italy to facilitate quarantine-free travel for passengers flying on those routes. “We recognize that in addition to restrictions being removed for vaccinated customers," he added. "We need to see a sensible testing regime in place, but what is killing demand is where countries introduce quarantine requirements or significant cost associated with testing.”