Dubai: UAE took decisions “ahead of time” to help the recovery of the aviation industry, said Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of budget carrier flydubai.
The airline chief was speaking at the World Sustainable Business Forum on Monday, a closed-door event organised by Gulf News and IFIICC, which brought together government officials, overseas dignitaries, and senior business leaders.
UAE was “quick to react” and enacted a plan that allowed flydubai to focus on cargo and repatriation at the start of the pandemic last year, said Al Ghaith. “The most important and most difficult part of it is creating a safe and hygienic network and operating environments for your own people, and for the customers”
Dubai was allowing travellers into the emirate as early as July last year and this allowed airlines to recover their networks and boost passenger numbers to some extent. “We tried to adjust our schedule to ensure that we put as many flights as possible (on routes) where there is actual demand,” said Al Ghaith. “As recent as before the summer, we were already at 65 per cent of pre-COVID numbers in terms of operation, which is incredible.”
Working with government
While the crisis has created frictions between airlines and governments around the world, UAE has seen a more collaborative approach. “We in the UAE are involved in the decision making when it comes to the rules set up to respond to the current pandemic,” said Al Ghaith. “If they (UAE government) wanted to come out with a new protocol, they will consult with the airline and the airport, in order for us to come up with something that will be practical and achievable.”
Al Ghaith also emphasised on the importance of having a global framework for travel. “We want all the countries to open up, so that there is one protocol to travel,” said the airline head. “For example, we needed a vaccine vaccination passport from day one… nobody was thinking (about the) bigger picture, and how we can make things more effective.”