Stock London Heathrow Airport UK Britain passengers
If UK's worries are about managing flights coming from major aviation hubs, then it should seek alternate solutions other than the 'red list'. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: The UK’s insistence on retaining flights from the UAE on its ‘red list’ has outlived its purpose and urgently requires more creative solutions, according to aviation industry consultants.

The UAE has one of the best vaccination rollout programmes anywhere in the world, which has ensured it’s airlines – and fliers – have received instant access to more European destinations starting next month. But the UK remains the one stumbling block, with the red listing forcing all fliers from the UAE to go through mandatory quarantine once they arrive in the UK.

“It is no longer about the COVID-19 situation in a country anymore,” said Linus Benjamin Bauer, Managing Director of Bauer Aviation Advisory in Dubai, adding that the UK stance seems more political than anything else. “Leaving the UAE on the red list for an extended period is not a reasonable approach to the existing challenges linked to the pandemic. Especially when governments had more than 14 months to set up global standard processes.”

The UAE was placed on UK's 'red-list' in January amid a spike in COVID-19 cases at the time. Since then, however, the UAE has managed to contain the spread and reconnected with more countries when it comes to travel.

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Cut out the transit

In the past, UK officials have argued that the reason for the continued restrictions was Dubai’s status as a transit hub. “Then they should at least allow the restoring of the point-to-point traffic between the UAE and UK without transit passengers onboard,” said Bauer. “These flights can also be operated from dedicated gates at Dubai and Abu Dhabi, since both airports have plenty of room to offer at the moment.”

The outlook for the UAE’s travel and tourism sector has brightened in the second quarter of 2021, as the impact of the country’s vaccine programme starts to take effect, according to a recent report by Mashreq.

“In terms of rolling out various countermeasures, feasible solutions and health safety-related initiatives throughout the pandemic, the UAE has done a fantastic job to date - even the airlines,” said Bauer.

Cratering demand

While flights from India – UAE’s largest aviation market – remain suspended, the UK government's decision to keep UAE on the red list has also been felt deeply by UAE airlines. “The rationale appears to be largely, if not entirely, political given the vaccination rates,” said Andrew Charlton, an independent aviation analyst. “But the fear for carriers with big hub operations is controlling the connecting passengers.

“We are in a race between the vaccines and the variants at the moment. I fear the worst, unless it comes back with a much reduced route network.”