How Emirates Is Making Flying Safe and Feasible Again


Even in a new world order reshaped by a super virus, flying is still possible. It’s just that your magical trip from Manila to elsewhere requires more caution, more planning, more adherence to the rules—and less touching.

To make things work for globetrotters, businessmen, and, yes, the carriers, themselves, which a year ago were in danger of being grounded forever, airline companies have made sweeping changes in their operations. “We spared no effort in reviewing and redesigning every step of the customer journey, from check-in to disembarkation,” says Jaber Mohamed, country manager of Emirates Philippines, in an interview with Esquire Philippines. “Every measure implemented is an additional reduction in risk and, taken altogether, our aim is really to make flying as safe as possible.”

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Safety Measures at Every Step of the Journey

Mohamed details how Emirates, the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, upholds “the highest standards of safety and hygiene” in all its flights, including its 14 weekly trips to the Philippines. 

To start, its airplanes are thoroughly cleaned in Dubai and, after every trip, undergo once again enhanced cleaning and disinfection. Sanitation and protection continue while in the air. For flights over 1.5 hours, Emirates includes a cabin service assistant (CSA) in its crew, all of which, Mohamed points out, are kitted out in PPEs. The CSA’s role is to clean the aircraft’s lavatories every 45 minutes. 

Unseen by the eye, more cleaning happens in the background—in the air you breathe. “Our HEPA filters clean the air every two minutes and take out more than 99.97 percent of viruses, germs, and other microbes to ensure a clean cabin environment,” he says.  


The nuances of the airplane experiences have been tweaked to adhere to “touchless travel,” too. Some things like reading materials have been pruned entirely, while musts such as mattresses, pillows, blankets, and headphones are hygienically sealed. 

And if you are a ticket holder of Emirates’ premium classes, never worry that your experience will be diminished. The ritual of choosing your in-flight meal, for example, can still be done with single-use menus and wine lists. You may also browse menus on your phone or laptop (online and offline) with the latest Emirates app. 

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Keeping things touch-free continues at the Dubai International Airport, where Emirates now employs biometric technology. “Since the start of the pandemic, we have been responding to travel requirements by introducing a host of biosafety measures at every customer touchpoint,” says Mohamed. “We were one of the first airlines in the world to adopt these measures well before it became an industry norm.”

Ramping Up the Airline Business in 2021

Emirates was not spared from the devastating economic effects of global lockdowns. According to Mohamed, its half-yearly reports in November 2020 showed losses of $3.4 billion and revenues plummeting by 75 percent to $3.2 billion.

To adapt and survive, the company ramped up other parts of its operations. “Our income generation was mainly supported by a strong cargo business,” reveals the country manager. 

Mohamed shares how Emirates SkyCargo “quickly expanded its network to over 115 scheduled cargo destinations,” transporting critical medical supplies and food, as well as the materials needed to continue economic activities around the world. Cargo-only flights on passenger aircraft were also introduced. For this, economy class seats were removed and cargo was loaded on the floor and in overhead compartments of airplanes. “With these measures, we were still able to uplift 65 percent of previous year’s cargo volumes,” he says.

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Here, in the Philippines, Emirates SkyCargo has robust operations, moving a bevy of export commodities such as electronics, garments, automotive parts, watches, and even food like fresh tuna, vegetables, and beverages. Destinations include Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich (the top three European cargo destinations), and Chicago (the top U.S. cargo destination), among others. “For imports, we have pharmaceutical and fashion products from Europe and general cargo, which includes goods sent by overseas foreign workers for their loved ones back home,” Mohamed adds. 

 Jaber Mohamed, country manager of Emirates Philippines

Photo by Emirates.

For now, Emirates is confident that it will soar above the woes caused by the pandemic. As vaccination programs roll out around the world, entry guidelines are relaxing and people are dreaming of flying again. According to Mohamed, the airlines has already recovered “about 85 percent of our pre-pandemic passenger network to 120 destinations.”

He continues, “No one said it would be a smooth one and there are challenges along the way, but we are optimistic about the future and project the second half of the year will see a ramp up due to pent up customer demand across many parts of our network.” The big plan: to recover 70 percent of its capacity by winter 2021.


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Clifford Olanday
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