Middle East airlines’ passenger traffic nosedive in April

This picture shows a Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner of the Etihad airline during take-off on September 24, 2019 at the airport in Duesseldorf, western Germany. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 June 2020

Middle East airlines’ passenger traffic nosedive in April

  • UAE-based Emirates and Etihad Airways will resume some transit flights
  • IATA said the global demand for air services is starting to show recovery

DUBAI: Passenger traffic for Middle East airlines plummeted 97.3 percent in April, versus a less-steeper dive of 50.3 percent a month earlier, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a report.
“April was a disaster for aviation as air travel almost entirely stopped. But April may also represent the nadir of the crisis,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said in a statement
“Flight numbers are increasing. Countries are beginning to lift mobility restrictions. And business confidence is showing improvement in key markets such as China, Germany, and the US.”
UAE-based Emirates and Etihad Airways will resume some transit flights after the country lifted a suspension on services where passengers stop off in the country to change planes, or for refueling.
Emirates, one of the world’s biggest long-haul airlines, would operate transit flights to 29 destinations in Asia, Europe and North America by June 15 while Etihad would carry transit passengers to 20 cities in Europe, Asia and Australia from June 10.
With aircraft of Middle East airlines grounded, and replicated globally due to the coronavirus pandemic, capacity tumbled 92.3 percent while the load factor decreased to 27.9 percent in April.
But IATA said the global demand for air services is starting to show recovery “after hitting bottom in April.”
There “are positive signs are we start to rebuild the industry from a stand-still. The initial green shoots will take time – possibly years – to mature,” de Juniac added.
Meanwhile, the Abu-Dhabi based carrier will extend salary cuts for employees until September even as other UAE airlines Emirates and Air Arabia confirmed job cuts due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Etihad is continuing to consider all options to protect jobs and preserve cash at this challenging time. Regretfully, Etihad has extended its salary reduction until September 2020, with 25 percent reduction for junior staff and cabin crew, and 50 percent for employees at manager level and above. Housing allowance and a number of benefits continue to be paid,” a statement from Etihad said.


Greek town bets on slow tourism to overcome virus

Updated 12 August 2020

Greek town bets on slow tourism to overcome virus

  • The pandemic is an opportunity to promote alternative tourism, fishing tourism

PREVEZA, Greece: Yannis Yovanos scans the waters of the Ambracian Gulf with his binoculars for dolphins shooting into the air before curving back down into the sea.

His early warnings prompt just a dozen tourists on the deck of Yovanos’ small boat to scramble for their smartphones, hoping to secure a snap of the aquatic mammals’ aerial acrobatics.

Officials in his home town of Preveza hope that it’s just this kind of small, family-run business that will help them overcome the coronavirus’ impact on travel — while sparing the region the environmental impact and economic distortions of the mass tourism more common on Crete or the Ionian islands.

“We don’t want to stay all day on a beach, we’re looking for a different experience,” said Dutch tourist Frederika Janssen.

“The pandemic is an opportunity to promote alternative tourism, fishing tourism,” as well as local life and culture “directly related to the natural resources that date from Antiquity,” said Constantin Koutsikopoulos, who heads the agency charged with managing the Ambracian Gulf.

Inside the gulf is a protected wetlands park, some 400 sq. km that is one of Europe’s Natura 2000 wildlife diversity regions.

One hundred and fifty dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles and 300 species of aquatic birds including the rare Dalmatian pelican live in the lagoons and reed beds of the gulf.

Nestled between green hills, the Ambracian Gulf is fed by rivers descending from the mountains of the Epirus region of northwestern Greece.

Yovanos’ hometown guards the little strait that connects the gulf with the Ionian Sea.

Dolphin watching trips like these mean “I am realizing my dream of living the life of a fisherman among our natural riches,” said the 49-year-old from behind a greying beard.

For Greece as a whole, a gamble on reopening its borders to tourists as early as June appears to have paid off for now.

New coronavirus cases have appeared only slowly since then, with fewer than 6,000 cases and just over 200 deaths nationwide from the pandemic.

Although Preveza has opted for a slower, more family-oriented approach to travel compared to better-known Greek destinations, it hasn’t renounced Mediterranean holiday clichés altogether.

With the sector suffering a big hit from the coronavirus epidemic, Preveza city officials launched a promotional campaign, securing the title of safest place for a European beach holiday from website European Best Destinations.

“Monolithi beach, the main beach of Preveza, is ... the longest one in Europe... you won’t have to struggle to get a nice spot, fix your beach umbrella and spend relaxing days in the sun,” it wrote.

And new infrastructure in the shape of a marina has helped draw sailors away from packed ports on the islands.

“Preveza is the right place compared to Corfu which is a very nice island but very crowded,” said Nick Ray, a British businessman, from the deck of his yacht that had put into the town’s port.

With its fishing and fish farming, the Ambracian Gulf is already the region’s economic motor.

Sustainable, environment-focused tourism should give the authorities even more reason to deal with the threats to the gulf such as pollution, poaching and illegal fishing.

There’s even something for ancient history buffs in the ruins of Nicopolis, founded by Caesar Augustus in honor of his naval victory nearby in 31 BC, where some Roman mosaics are still preserved.