By JON GAMBRELL
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, is getting busier. But it’s a long way from what it once was amid the coronavirus pandemic as it prepares for a possible ”extended, slow recovery,” its CEO told The Associated Press.
After long-haul carrier Emirates drastically cut its flights in March and slowly resumed its routes, passenger numbers at the mammoth airport serving East-West travel have crept up to over 1 million a month — just below 15% of what they were a year ago, CEO Paul Griffiths said.
To boost those numbers, Griffiths is urging countries to move away from mandatory quarantines on arriving passengers and toward the strategy embraced by Dubai. That includes aggressive coronavirus testing before departure, followed by mandatory mask-wearing on aircraft and testing on arrival.
“What we have to do is take appropriate measures to control and manage the risk, which actually are acceptable. I mean, life is full of risk management. It’s not all full of risk elimination,” Griffiths told the AP in an interview Monday. “Surely the same should apply to the virus. We need to get it under control to minimize the risk of infection.
“And that can be done with some of the measures that we’ve got available to us without prolonging the social and economic damage that is currently being inflicted.”
Across the wider Middle East, passenger numbers this year are expected to reach only 60 million, down from 203 million in 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association. That’s only 30% of last year’s numbers.
The recovery may take years. By 2021, the trade group hopes to see 90 million travelers in the Mideast, still drastically lower than 2019. In order to get passengers flying before a vaccine is widely available, the IATA is