Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

Where can you fly to in the Middle East? Restrictions and options explained for Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon and more

Find out which countries are welcoming travellers, which airports are open and when flights look set to restart

With travel restrictions changing on what seems like a daily basis, it can be difficult to keep up-to-date on where flights are operating and what rules are in place in each country.

In an effort to help make things a little clearer for anyone trying to plan travel, the International Air Transport Association has published a free interactive map that details what restrictions are in place and where.

In this region, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Oman are all labelled by IATA as “totally restricted”, while Bahrain, Kuwait and Lebanon are listed as “partially restricted”. But what does this actually mean?

Using data from IATA’s map coupled with regional information from civil aviation authorities and updates from local airlines, the below list will be updated to track how travel restrictions and passenger flight services in the region are set to change over the next few weeks.

UAE: Travel to certain destinations from June 23

Commercial passenger flights in and out of the UAE have been suspended since March 24 but the country is set to allow residents and nationals to travel to select destinations again from June 23. The list of destinations, the groups authorised to travel, and the procedures that must be adhered to before, during, and after returning from travel are yet to be announced.

Regional airlines have been operating cargo and repatriation flights during this time. Emirates and Etihad have also been operating regular outbound services to various destinations across the world for the past few months, including the UK, Australia, Germany and the United States. Both airlines have introduced strict new safety procedures.

All travellers, including Emiratis and UAE residents, currently need permission to return to the UAE from the Federal Authority For Identity and Citizenship before they can book a flight home. Transit passengers can fly via Dubai and Abu Dhabi without permission from authorities. Upon arrival in the UAE, there’s a 14-day quarantine period in place for all travellers.

All Emirates flights for the next seven days from Dubai International Airport, starting from Monday, June 15.
All Emirates flights from DXB International for the seven days, starting from Monday, June 15.

Airports across the country have been busy preparing to reopen by installing plastic barriers, social distancing measures and upgrading hygiene procedures. Face masks are compulsory in all airports and on flights and new PPE-filled vending machines have been installed at Dubai International Airport for travellers to stock up on masks before flights.

Bahrain: Etihad resumes flights to Manama

Etihad will launch flights from Abu Dhabi to Bahrain from June 19. Courtesy Etihad 
Etihad will launch flights from Abu Dhabi to Bahrain from June 19. Courtesy Etihad

Bahrain is currently closed to tourists, but residents and nationals can fly into the country. According to Bahrain Airport Company, transit passengers and travellers holding a letter of prior permission are allowed entry, and all passengers must undergo medical screening. Cargo flights continue to operate to and from Bahrain.

Etihad Airways will start flying from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Bahrain International Airport on Friday, June 19. The national airline of the UAE will operate four return flights to Manama on 19, 21, 26 and 28 of June.

A disinfection programme is in place at Bahrain International Airport and some services, such as airport lounges are closed. Duty-free, food and beverage outlets and foreign exchange services are open as normal.

Lebanon: Airport to reopen on Wednesday, July 1

Lebanon's Beirut is preparing to welcome travellers again with the country's international airport set to open to commercial flights from Wednesday, July 1. Unsplash
Lebanon's capital, Beirut, is preparing to welcome travellers again with the country's international airport set to open to commercial flights from Wednesday, July 1. Unsplash

Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport is set to reopen for commercial passenger flights from Wednesday, July 1. It will begin with limited air travel services, with the airport operating at 10 per cent of its normal capacity. Private flights will also resume to and from the airport on Wednesday, June 24. All passengers will be tested for Covid-19 upon arrival, with home quarantine rules in place.

While Lebanon’s commercial passenger services have been grounded, the country's Middle East Airlines has been operating several repatriation flights in and out of Lebanon. Cargo services have also remained operational.

Oman: No passenger services before Tuesday, June 30

Travellers cannot currently fly into Oman as the country’s airports are closed to all commercial passenger traffic. This has been the case since Sunday, March 29, when most air travel closed. Domestic flights are also grounded. Omani nationals can enter the country, but cannot exit again during this time, and only repatriation services and cargo flights are operating.

Oman Air has suspended all passenger flights until at least Tuesday, June 30, other than repatriation services. During this time, airports in Oman are enhancing hygiene standards and implementing social distancing policies in preparation for reopening.

Jordan: Passenger flights remain grounded

Commercial passenger flights to and from Jordan have been suspended since Tuesday, March 17. Only Jordanian nationals on repatriation flights and those coming on medevac, UN or diplomatic flights can enter the country.

Royal Jordanian, the country's national airline, has said all passenger flights are suspended until at least Wednesday, June 24. Some services are scheduled to restart after that date, but other routes, including to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, will remain suspended until the end of June or early July.

These restrictions could also be extended further. All passengers must undergo medical checks and wear masks, gloves and shoe covers on all Royal Jordanian flights.

Egypt: Phased flight resumption from July

Egypt will reopen airports to commercial passenger flights from July in a bid to boost tourism. Unsplash 
Egypt will reopen airports to commercial passenger flights from July in a bid to boost tourism. Unsplash

While commercial flights to and from Egypt are currently suspended, the country will gradually resume passenger services from Wednesday, July 1. Before this happens, hygiene inspections will be carried out at Egyptian airports and all aircraft will be sterilized. The country is welcoming travellers from most countries, but passengers arriving from destinations where Covid-19 cases are high, will need to submit negative test results before being allowed entry to Egypt.

Tourist resorts at the Red Sea, Sharm El Sheikh and Matrouh are set to reopen by July and the government has waived the need for travellers heading to these particular regions to get tourist visas until October, 31, 2020. Those exempt, who are travelling to these destinations for up to 15 days, will get a stamp waiving the need for a tourist visa at the airport. Travellers should check if their passport qualifies for this exemption before booking.

There are also set to be discounts in place for tourists at several of the country’s museums and cultural landmarks in a bid to boost tourism in the country.

Egypt Air and Air Cairo continue to operate cargo and repatriation flights throughout June.

Saudi Arabia: International flights remain suspended

International commercial flights to and from Saudi Arabia are currently suspended and appear to be set to remain so. Only Saudi nationals are allowed to enter the country as part of the kingdom's return programme for those stranded overseas.

Domestic flights partially resumed across Saudi Arabia on Sunday, May 3, and five more domestic airports – Bisha, Taif, Yanbu, Hafr Al batin and Sharourah – are now preparing to resume domestic services. Passengers travelling domestically must purchase tickets electronically and should wear face masks and expect temperature scanning when they arrive at the airport.

Anyone with a high reading will be turned away. Saudi Arabia has also announced that anyone currently in the country on an expired tourist visa due to the suspension of international flights will have their visa automatically extended for three months. No new tourist visas are being issued until further notice.

Kuwait: Travellers must download tracing app

Anyone flying into Kuwait will need to download a tracing app so that authorities can track passenger movements to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Unsplash
Anyone flying into Kuwait will need to download a tracing app so that authorities can track passenger movements to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Unsplash

Commercial passenger flights to and from Kuwait were suspended on March 13 and remain so, with only Kuwaiti nationals, their relatives and domestic workers allowed to enter the country. All arriving passengers must install the "Shlonik" app on their smartphone to allow authorities to trace their movements and ensure home quarantine rules are in place.

Commercial passenger flights to and from Kuwait remain suspended other than for repatriation flights and cargo services. Previous media reports suggested that commercial flights to and from Kuwait would begin on Monday, June 15. However, the country’s civil aviation authority has denied this. They confirmed that flights to and from Kuwait International Airport will eventually resume at 30 per cent capacity, before increasing to 60 per cent and finally 100 per cent. However, no date has been set for the resumption.

Updated: June 16, 2020 07:54 AM

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