an airplane wing in the sky

For every action there’s a reaction, and about 2,200 travelers are experiencing what reaction can bring, right about now. After a midnight move from the UK Government banning all direct flights between the UAE and UK, formerly the busiest route in the world, a large number of passengers became stranded, with little option to get home.

Add in complexities of evolving government relations between not just two, but three or more countries in the midst of change, an legal inability fly a route, and passengers are currently experiencing what can only be described as a wild saga, which will only give pause to future travel plans.

a large airplane flying over a runway

Passengers Stranded Between Dubai & UK

Some passengers in the UK are hoping to return to Dubai, others are in Dubai hoping to get back to the UK. There are many cases where ‘karma’ may indeed apply, such as the floods of thirsty influencers who flouted ‘essential travel only’ rules just to pose for poolside pictures, but many where they don’t.

With direct flights currently banned indefinitely, a British Airways source tells GSTP the airline doesn’t plan to resume Dubai-London flights until as late as mid April, unless miraculous travel, or pandemic news moves that time table up.

Not only that, British Airways hands to help passengers are being somewhat tied by partner and major BA stakeholder, Qatar Airways, which is under its own pressures on both ends of the busy route, amid complex government relations.

Qatar Airways is fresh off a three year ban from flying into Dubai as a result of the blockade between Qatar and GCC states including the UAE, and only just reinstated flights.

To keep tensions from flaring in Dubai or the UK, Qatar isn’t taking on any new bookings for the route, including rebooking stranded BA passengers, at BA’s behest.

This is a big twist in this dramatic affair.

Qatar Airways is the largest shareholder in IAG, the parent company of British Airways, and therefore a majority shareholder of British Airways. Not only that, it’s a Oneworld partner, which would typically be first choice for any rebooking needs between airlines.

All that’s gone out of the window, and Qatar finds itself caught between two difficult choices, with trouble on both ends.

If Qatar Airways was a near ‘sole’ beneficiary of the direct flight ban, by funneling Dubai traffic via Doha, it could enrage the UAE further and throw a spanner in newly built relations. Things aren’t any better at the other end of the route. Qatar is also refusing passengers to avoid enraging UK officials, who threaten future flight bans.

Qatar Airways is said to be worried that the UK Government might initiate bans on traffic from Doha to the UK as well, given that the justification for shutting down UAE flights was transiting feeder traffic from Africa. Qatar Airways is equally positioned to deliver transit traffic from Africa, and both airlines use home countries as a transit point for all flights, just as British Airways would.

Best option: stay out of it? At least for now, that’s apparently Qatar Airways plan.

a cityscape with a river and a body of water
Image by Selim Mohammed from Pixabay

So What’s Happening For BA Customers?

British Airways customers are being told it’s Lufthansa Group or bust, for getting bookings moved over and honored. Lufthansa is currently the only airline agreeing to take previously booked BA passengers, and with over 2,000 stranded and limited daily flying, it might be a while before people get home.

Update: Gulf Air has now jumped in to help, ferrying passengers via Bahrain.

This is of no fault to BA, but serves as a real time reminder of just how consequential actions can be, however justified given evolving health concerns. The UK Government has been widely criticized for 180° twists to covid-19 related policies, including border efforts where most changes come without warning, or often, without scientific basis.

Recent moves have devastated the vital travel industry, and crushed future demand for UK trips, adding worry to summer holidays. Today is also the last day of British Airways current sale, for the undeterred.

It may feel like karmic bliss to see “influencers” struggling to return to their point of origin, but for many traveling on legitimate business, including vaccination efforts, it’s yet another headache caused from a move without warning. It remains unclear when a ban on UAE flights will be lifted.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. That, right there, is the issue with this country: of course karma apply here etc. Influencers shouldn’t only be punished with having a hard time coming home, like some sort of kindergarten vengeance. They should be punished by the law, because they broke it. But now they are stranded in Dubai and everyone is happy to see them “suffer”, so nothing else will be done. They should face criminal chargers and pay for the consequence of their decisions like other people who break the law. These influencers might not break the law again in the future, but other will because they know that nothing will really happen to those who break it.

    1. My personal opinion throughout the pandemic has been fewer laws or restrictions, but actual enforcement of those that exist. Even fines are pathetic.

    2. Most of them travelled before the lockdown started, when leisure travel was still allowed. They haven’t broken any laws, but jealousy reigns sadly.

  2. abandoned by the UK government at virtually no notice.
    We were due to fly home on the 30th Jan when our 31 day travel insurance and visa runs out but have had no help form Emirates whatsoever, I have told them I’ve run out of Dr prescribed medicines for heart and blood pressure issues and so has my wife run out of her tablets, our insurance and visas expires on the 30th but they are in no urgency to get people home.

    1. Sorry but no sympathy you shouldn’t have traveled knowing there’s major changes at short notice worldwide, trying the desperate for medication bleet makes it even more obvious you shouldnt have gone

    2. If people are stupid enough to travel during a pandemic then it’s not the UK government’s fault.

      You should have thought about this before you travelled. You have nobody to blame other than yourself.

      Your travel should also be investigated when you return to the UK and if not deemed essential travel action should be taken against you.

      Perhaps you might think twice before travelling again during a worldwide pandemic.

      1. Let’s not rush to pass judgement on people. Travel is an essential function for many, and also provides over 300 million global jobs. What would all those people do if everyone stopped, forever? We all come at this from different angles, but there’s no need to be crass.

        1. If you think the majority of people were in Dubai for work, then you are delusional. I’m crew for a major airline and I had the unfortunate job of operating several flights to Dubai during lockdown. I can tell you over 90% of those passengers onboard were going for a holiday. Those that travelled during this time have got what they deserve. Karma.

          1. I never said majority. The point is some were, some weren’t, and all were punished equally. I was trying to think of how best to address your position of being crew for an airline, and telling people who travel that they got what they deserve and that you had the “unfortunate job” of handling them in a time when many of your colleagues are out of work, but I’ll leave that in the air.

  3. It’s a shame for those that were travelling for an essential purpose, now in the same queue as these ‘influencers’ that quite frankly should have stayed at home and deserve a fine. They knew the risk they took when they broke the law to leave, and this is sadly just a consequence. Shame for those with lawful reasons to travel. You can argued with the merits of the rule change all day long but it is what it is.

  4. You must also criticise the Head For Points Editor as even though there was a request for essential travel only he and his family went to Dubai and reviewed his stay while others were not travelling to save lives. Is it right for a travel editor to encourage travel during a pandemic?

  5. If its against the law to travel, then why are airlines accepting these passengers?

    I dislike “influencers” (who are influencing nothing) as much as the next person, but surely they do not deserve this?.

    These travel bans whether in 3D or 5D reality out of the UK do nothing to stop what is clearly underway! It is what it is, and the countdown continues. All will see soon….covid is just the farce/cover for nature at its best. Anyway….

    Be happy, and enjoy the travel when you can.

    1. Because it’s not as simple as ‘against the law’. There are permitted reasons to travel. For example, I’m an American citizen, the UK cannot keep me from returning home. I also travel on business, though I’m choosing not to right now. Others can’t choose. Emergency doctors, gas and electric workers, they’ve gotta move!

  6. A quick check of Flight Radar shows normal scheduled flight right now from DUB-LHR. What the press publish is not the truth.

    1. Look at any official reference, including IATA. Flights between the UAE and UK are currently banned. Flights fly as cargo only, or with repatriation exemptions, but that’s it for direct traffic right now. This isn’t the press, this is official air directives.

  7. While I’m very happy to have kept my job and also very lucky as well. And I love my job. When I look after the passengers I do chat and interact with them. So yes with the flights I have done to Dubai…the majority I would say aren’t going there for work. My job at the moment is a double edge sword…people shouldn’t be travelling unless for essential reasons and those that travel, for a holiday or otherwise, are bringing cash into the airline and giving me work. I’ve had the virus, and it’s horrid, so maybe I’m going to judge a bit more than someone who hasn’t had it. You seen to come over very defensive and this is probably my first and last time I’ll comment.

  8. Paragraph 1: ‘These people deserve the karma they get for travelling during a pandemic’.
    Paragraph 2: ‘Btw, click on my affiliate link to book flights in the BA sale’.

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