FILE PHOTO: Etihad Airways Airbus A320-200 plane is seen at the National Airport Minsk, Belarus April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) – Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways said on Saturday it would extend its suspension of scheduled passenger flights until at least May 16 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The airline, which had aimed to partially resume passenger flights from May 1, said in a statement all scheduled services would remain grounded until May 16 at the earliest. Earlier in the day, it had said the suspension would last until May 15.

Etihad and other UAE airlines have been operating outbound-only flights for foreigners who want to leave the Gulf Arab state, which has banned the entry of people from abroad due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

“While Etihad hoped to resume a reduced network of scheduled passenger services from 1 May, subject to UAE government-imposed travel restrictions being lifted, the airline will now delay this plan until at least 16 May, due to the ongoing situation,” a company spokeswoman said.

“This decision is being taken early to avoid potential disruption to customers wishing to travel during that period, and for their safety and well-being,” the company said.

The coronavirus outbreak has virtually halted all international air travel.

Reporting by Alex Cornwall; Editing by Gareth Jones, Louise Heavens and Helen Popper

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