Coronavirus flight cancellations: Emirates refund 500,000 passengers

Emirates is using cash reserves to refund customers as airlines around the world look for ways to handle rebates in the aftermath of grounded flights.

With about half-a-million requests pending, the Dubai-based carrier said it’s ramping up the capability to handle 150,000 refunds per month from 35,000 before the coronavirus outbreak. Emirates, which received assurances for government support last month, plans to clear the backlog by early August.

“We are dipping into our cash reserves by being proactive in processing refunds, but it is our duty and responsibility,” President Tim Clark said.

Carriers have resisted refunding passengers for canceled flights as they sought to preserve dwindling cash reserve.

Airlines, including Emirates, have been steering customers to vouchers, prompting a flurry of complaints. The global airline industry is expected to burn through as much as $61 billion in the second quarter, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Emirates said Sunday it also offers customers two other options:

  • keep existing ticket for up to 24 months
  • exchange the unused portion of the tickets for a travel voucher equivalent to the amount paid for their original booking

Emirates continues to fly to a select number of destinations as repatriation flights for overseas nationals in Dubai, but a ban on transit passengers imposed by the UAE government means that the airline is still unable to revert to its traditional mode of being a connections-based hub carrier with a sprawling global network – the model on which Emirates has built its success over the past three decades.

Its Abu Dhabi-based neighbour and state-owned competitor Etihad Airways plans to resume passenger flights on May 16, saying that it is “working closely with the UAE government and global aviation authorities, our aim is to gradually return to a fuller schedule as soon as it is safe for us to do so.

”For now, our flights remain suspended, and will return on May 16,” the statement said. “We’re planning to operate a reduced network from May 16 2020, which is now available to book on”

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