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World|business|May 14, 2020 / 01:58 PM
Dubai airport CEO: Global travel still up in air over virus

AKIPRESS.COM - The CEO of the world’s busiest airport for international travel wants to get the globe flying again, but even he acknowledges everything remains up in the air during the coronavirus pandemic, AP reports. 

Paul Griffiths oversees what now is a much quieter Dubai International Airport, home to the long-haul carrier Emirates and crucial to East-West travel. The millions that once poured through the airport’s concourses are no longer flying as countries around the world enforce lockdowns and travel bans to fight the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes.

Though government-owned Emirates plans to restart some flights next week, Griffiths told The Associated Press that the airport has yet to find a workable coronavirus or antibody test to administer on a massive scale to passengers. Until a vaccine or a permanent solution to the virus exists, there could be “quite a low level of activity for quite some time,” he said.

“I think the thing is there are a lot of people that are offering conjecture, whether it’s 18 months or two years or less or more,” Griffiths said in an interview Wednesday. “But the problem is it’s all conjecture. The honest answer is no one really knows.”

The airport known as DXB saw 86.4 million passengers in 2019, 6 million more than second-place Heathrow Airport in London. That’s down 3% from 2018 when Dubai had 89.1 million passengers.

But air travel this year has been disrupted by the virus. In the first quarter, Dubai International Airport’s passenger numbers dropped by nearly a fifth to 17.8 million compared to last year. Cargo and repatriation flights have been flying, however.

Beginning May 21, Emirates plans to operate flights to nine cities, including Chicago; Frankfurt, Germany; London; Madrid; Milan; Paris; Toronto; and Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. Already, attendants on Emirates flights wear gloves, masks and other protective gear.

In the airport, customers and staff alike wear masks and disposable gloves. Thermal heat scanners look over passengers and they have experimented with both coronavirus and antibody tests, Griffiths said. However, the airport has no immediate strategy to test all passengers, like Iceland plans to do at its airport in Reykjavík. That leaves open the possibility of an asymptomatic coronavirus carrier making it onto a flight.

“I believe we’re doing everything we can to make sure that we are maintaining the integrity of the health and security and safety of our customers and staff,” Griffiths said. “And as new methods become available, we will, of course, trial and adopt them if they’re effective and scalable.”

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