January 15, 2021


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Here’s some good news if you’re traveling through Dubai any time soon: Emirates has brought back its popular Dubai Connect package for customers transiting through Dubai International Airport (DXB).

Qualifying passengers receive a free night at a four or five-star hotel, one free meal and ground transportation to and from the airport. This is undoubtedly a response to the drop in tourism caused by the global pandemic. With fewer tourists coming to Dubai for vacation, tapping into transiting passengers is one way to drum up tourism.

Travelers who choose to take advantage of this offer can get a UAE visa on arrival. Dubai also has testing requirements, which vary, depending on where you’re coming from. Most passengers need to present a negative PCR test taken up to 96 hours before arrival. Meanwhile, travelers from Germany and the UK can take a free COVID test at Dubai Airport.

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Who qualifies for Dubai Connect?

Emirates passengers in all cabin classes who have a stopover of 10-24 hours qualify for Dubai Connect. Bookings made through a travel agent are also eligible. Fares must be on Emirates-operated flights, including ones marketed by Qantas. Codeshare flights are not eligible, with the exception of EK5000 and QF8000.

Keep in mind that the Dubai Connect package is only available if you’re booking the shortest connection time possible. In other words, you can’t just book the flight with the longest layover if there is a shorter one available.

As for hotels, you’ll likely be put up at the Copthorne or the Le Méridien Airport Hotel Dubai. Both are very nice hotels close to Dubai Airport.

If you’re unable to leave the airport, you can still access the Dubai Connect airport lounge during your layover, free of charge.

Related: Where Americans can travel right now

How to book a Dubai Connect package

To book your free accommodations, you’ll need to book a qualifying Emirates flight. Then head over o the Dubai Connect page and provide your travel information (booking number, name, etc.). You will then receive instructions for booking your free hotel and ground transportation.

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Bottom line

The Dubai Connect package is the latest effort on behalf of Emirates to drum up business in a global pandemic. In July, Emirates became the first airline to offer free COVID-19 travel insurance, providing peace of mind for travelers who are concerned about getting sick during their journey.

While Dubai has remained open for tourism, global travel demand is still way down and airlines like Emirates are in survival mode. By offering free hotel stays and ground transportation, Emirates may appeal to travelers looking for more value. The Dubai Connect package also encourages transiting passengers


Joe Ingram doesn’t have a good memory for most things, but when he meets someone living in an RV or a vehicle, he doesn’t forget them.

“This is Anne — she and her son live here,” Ingram said Thursday as he pointed at RVs and trailers as he passed them in Georgetown. “This is Christine.”

When the 66-year-old outreach worker, who chain-smokes and walks with a cane, doesn’t know a vehicle, he’ll knock on the door and deliver his pitch: “Hi, I’m Joe. I’m with the Scofflaw Mitigation Team; here’s my card. I can help you with a parking ticket or if you get towed. I can help you potentially get into housing.”

He often points out that in the five years he’s been doing this, he hasn’t lost a car to the tow yard yet.

The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless is funded by BECU, The Bernier McCaw Foundation, Campion Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Starbucks and the University of Washington. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over Project Homeless content.

More and more often since COVID-19 hit, Ingram runs into campers who live in increasingly broken down vehicles. The mayor lifted a rule that said a vehicle can only occupy a parking space for 72 hours months ago, and now, homeless campers are letting their batteries die and their belongings pile up outside their RVs and vehicles.

“When they reinstate it, it’s going to be a cluster- (expletive),” Ingram said conspiratorially to a van-camper, pulling down his mask and lighting a cigarette. “We can help you on the road to housing.”

There were close to 3,000 people living in their vehicles in King County at last count, according to a January tally that advocates say is an undercount. Though large, it’s a population that’s largely ignored by Seattle’s homeless services providers: there are less than 20 parking spaces set aside for vehicle campers at churches around the city, and this year was the first time Seattle spent money on outreach specifically for this population.

For years, the Scofflaw Mitigation Team was a volunteer-run operation focused on people who have nowhere else to live but a van or RV and rack up large unpaid fines. This year’s budget gave $100,000 to the team, making Ingram and another staffer paid employees.

But under Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2021 budget proposal, that team could lose its funding.

Vehicle campers are a tough group to get off the streets, according to the Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett, founder of the Scofflaw Mitigation Team.

“For a very short term, it can feel better than a tent,” Kirlin-Hackett said. “That doesn’t make it good.”

Further upstream, once the state rent moratorium lifts, many homeless advocates expect a wave of evictions. The first place many will likely live is in their car. 

And as soon as the parking-fine moratorium lifts, Kirlin-Hackett said the impact would be a different wave, sweeping people out of their vehicles and onto the streets.