India-UAE flights: Three months since travel was first suspended

Many have been separated from their families, while some have had to live with pay cuts

  
A passenger walks at Dubai International Airport, as Emirates airline resumed limited outbound passenger flights amid outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dubai, UAE April 27, 2020.

A passenger walks at Dubai International Airport, as Emirates airline resumed limited outbound passenger flights amid outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dubai, UAE April 27, 2020.

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
It has been three months since passenger entry from India to the UAE was suspended — and scores of stranded residents are still waiting, hoping they could return to their jobs soon.

A 10-day suspension of inbound travel from India was first announced by the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) and the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) on April 24. On May 5, the authorities had announced an extension, leaving hundreds of thousands of Indians stranded in their home country.

Many have been separated from their families, while some have had to live with pay cuts. Others may no longer have jobs to return to.

Most had travelled to see their loved ones, and a number of them flew because of emergencies. With flights still suspended until further notice, Indian expats have exhausted all means trying to return to the UAE. Some have made it back on charter flights, while a few explored alternate routes and spent at least 14 days in other countries just so they could fly back to the UAE. Others are running out of options, as they wrote to Khaleej Times.

Amitava had to rush to eastern city of Kolkata in West Bengal on April 21 to see his ailing mother.

With the last flight taking off from Kolkata at 11.59pm on April 23, Amitava was unable to make it. He and his wife then explored travelling via Tashkent on June 18 from New Delhi after undergoing the necessary RT-PCR tests. But with Uzbekistan announcing travel restrictions due to the new Delta Variant, flights were cancelled from June 17.

George had travelled to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala on April 11 on a one-month vacation. Now, he — like many others — is struggling to make ends meet.

“As you all know, we are not paid if we are not working. And yet we have to pay the rent for the flat, electricity, water, gas service charges, internet and telephone, even though we are stranded here,” George wrote.

Siddharth, who has been a UAE resident for 11 years, had travelled to India to attend his sister’s wedding in April. His wife and son had travelled before him to spend some time at her house.

“We are stuck in India and our job and life is at stake,” wrote Siddharth.

Harsh, who works in the hospitality industry, had travelled to Mumbai on vacation on February 25 and had then extended it by another month. Though he managed to keep his job, he had to accept some pay cuts.

Others have had to deal with visa issues. Gerard, a physiotherapist, had travelled to India on April 12 due to a family emergency and had booked his return ticket on April 25.

“It was a sudden and unplanned trip but I have commitments and responsibilities back in the UAE. I have already taken both doses of the vaccine but I’m panicking now as I have to return before my visa expires,” he said.

Vaibhav, who has been working in the UAE for 15 years, had written in June that his visa was set to expire on June 29. He had travelled to India on a two-month vacation.

All these Indian residents fear losing their jobs, having been away for such a long period of time — but most choose to be optimistic, praying flights will resume soon.

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