EMIRATES, the largest airline and flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, resumed flights to Harare at the beginning of last month.
Emirates Zimbabwe country manager Nasser Bahlooq recently spoke to Daily News Features Editor Dakarai Mashava about the airline’s two weekly flights to Harare which are linked to its Lusaka service. Below are excerpts of the interview:
Q: How has it been since Emirates resumed flights to Harare? Are you happy with the volumes?
A: Emirates resumed flights to Harare on October 1. We are happy with the opening up of the country’s airspace and borders and the opportunities that will soon follow.
As Dubai and the rest of the world open up, we are confident that both business and leisure travel will continue to regain its footing amid coronavirus (Covid-19) with strict guidance from health authorities. We are happy with the current passenger demand in and out of Harare and hope to grow it further in the weeks and months ahead.
Q: How frequent are the flights to Harare?
A: We will be flying twice a week; Thursdays/Fridays and Sundays/Mondays. Departure from Harare will be at 1255hrs on Mondays and Fridays, arriving in Lusaka at 1400 hrs, and then Dubai at 0025hrs the next day. It is a measure of demand that we will be adding a third flight every Friday/Saturday from November 6 (this week).
Q: How many cities can you connect from Harare?
A: Emirates has been gradually restoring its network connectivity after the lifting of restrictions on transit passengers on June 15.
To date, we are serving close to 100 cities with safe and convenient connections via our Dubai hub for customers travelling between the Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific.
The linked flight also provides a useful route direct from Harare to Lusaka.
Q: Given the threat posed by Covid-19, what measures has the airline put in place to protect travellers?
A: We have spared no effort in reviewing and redesigning every step of the customer journey, from check-in to disembarkation. Every measure implemented is an additional reduction in risk, and taken altogether, our aim is really to make flying as safe as possible.
Measures include the distribution of complimentary hygiene kits containing masks, gloves, hand sanitisers and antibacterial wipes to all customers on the ground at check-in. Protective barriers at each check-in desk and immigration counter have been installed to provide additional safety reassurance to passengers and employees during interaction over the counter.
All cabin crews on board are fully kitted out in PPE. To uphold the highest standards of safety and hygiene, Emirates has added a cabin service assistant (CSA) to the crew complement on flights over 1.5 hours to ensure lavatories are cleaned at frequent intervals of every 45 minutes.
Comfort items such as mattresses, blankets, pillows and headphones are hygienically sealed. Reading materials have been removed.
Our safety cards are disinfected and all waste bags are replaced after every flight.
All aircraft are deep cleaned in Dubai and go through an enhanced cleaning and disinfection process after every trip. Emirates is also the first airline to provide free cover on Covid-19 related medical expenses should a customer be diagnosed with Covid-19 during their travel while away from home.
Q: The measures to improve passenger safety have obviously increased operational costs, hasn’t this translated into increases of air ticket prices?
A: We consider our fares as competitive and the measures put in place are there to safeguard customer safety while they travel. Fares are also set based on market dynamics and other factors, and customers can find the latest fares on our website.
Q: Is a Covid-19 PCR test certificate a must before a passenger is admitted into a plane?
A: Ensuring the safety of travellers, visitors, and the community, Covid-19 PCR tests are mandatory for all inbound passengers arriving to Dubai (and the UAE), irrespective of the country they are coming from.
The Covid‑19 PCR test is no longer required for all connecting passengers — it is only mandatory for those arriving from the specific countries — including Zimbabwe or/and when the destination country requires it. We have a list of accredited labs for each country on our website.
Q: How competitive are your fares?
A: Our fares are considered extremely competitive by travel agents and our customers, and we remain committed to providing our customers with excellent service and a strong value-for-money proposition. Like all airlines, Emirates offers a variety of fares throughout the year depending on market forces.
Q: Are there any promotions you are running to celebrate the resumption of flights?
A: Emirates has committed to cover Covid-19 related medical expenses, free of cost, should a customer be diagnosed with Covid-19 during their travel while they are away from home.
This cover is immediately effective for customers flying on Emirates until December 31, 2020 (and is valid for 31 days from the moment they fly the first sector of their journey.
This means Emirates customers can continue to benefit from the added assurance of this cover, even if they travel onwards to another city after arriving at their Emirates destination.