Stock Paul Griffiths
Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, emphasises caution in any forecasts about what's next for the global travel industry. Image Credit: Dubai Airports

Dubai: Flights between Dubai and London will make a return in the “near future” – that’s according to Dubai Airports’ chief.

“The government in the UK is making very good progress with its vaccination programme,” said Paul Griffiths, CEO. “And once we've got all those back together, we're forecasting that we will end 2021 - hopefully - with a higher number than we did in 2020.”

Getting the UK sector back in operation is crucial for Dubai’s travel and tourism prospects. In December, the UK provided the highest passenger numbers passing through Dubai International, but that was immediately curtailed after the UK announced fresh travel restrictions.

“The loss of flights to the UK has had an impact of a couple of 100,000 passengers a month - but other markets have compensated for that,” said Griffiths. “It will be a slow and difficult few months, but I think in the latter half of the year, we should be seeing some positive and steady recovery.”

Read More

Vaccination led recovery

According to the CEO, reinstating air travel corridors once the vaccination programmes have stabilised will be a priority. (Travel corridors allow airlines to operate services without passengers having to go into quarantine.)

“I think all hopes are pinned on the vaccination programme rolling out solidly worldwide and us getting travel corridors re-established with those countries that made the best progress,” Griffiths said.

“It won't be linear recovery rates, it may be slower in the short term, but we're optimistic the third quarter and the fourth will record some very positive numbers.”

However, getting everyone vaccinated is easier said than done. “One of the difficulties at the moment is that the actual percentage of the global population that's been vaccinated remains incredibly low,” said Griffiths. “As countries make good progress those bilateral relationships will start to open up.”

IATA ‘pass’

IATA’s Travel Pass is an initiative being rolled out by airlines and aviation authorities for a ‘digital passport’ that will have details about a passenger’s pre-travel COVID-19 tests and vaccination status. But a digital passport will not be enough to bring back confidence in air travel.

“Governments are looking to protect their domestic populations, and the difficulty is those populations can only be protected through the vaccine,” he added. “A digital passport isn't really providing any surety to a government that the rate of infection is likely to fall.”