Stranded Indian expats rush to get back on first flights to UAE

Passengers will now be flying back on flights organised by both UAE carriers and the Indian government for a period of 15 days

  
An airport staff member pushes trollies at the entrance of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, after the government allowed domestic flight services to resume, during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mumbai, India, May 25, 2020.

An airport staff member pushes trollies at the entrance of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, after the government allowed domestic flight services to resume, during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mumbai, India, May 25, 2020.

REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

Indian expats who need to return to their work, homes or families in the UAE are eagerly waiting to board flights that'll bring them back to the country.

An interim arrangement was reached between the civil aviation authorities of the two countries allowing airlines to carry people authorised to travel.

Passengers will now be flying back on flights organised by both UAE carriers and the Indian government's Vande Bharat Mission for a period of 15 days, starting today. Eligible passengers travelling on India-UAE flights will need to carry Covid-19 negative test result, conducted not more than 96 hours before departure.

Shariq Khan, who went for a family wedding, had barely thought his return would be so difficult. "I came to India in February. I have finally booked my tickets and am returning on July 20. I feel the anxious wait is finally over. My mother and I are returning to my father who has been alone all this while. That has been quite a matter of concern for us apart from the fact that my business has also been suffering," said Khan, a Dubai resident and founder of Gravity Events Management.

"I am paying Dh1,465 for each ticket in Air India Express from Delhi. I did thorough research before booking my tickets as a lot of flights were getting cancelled. It took me quite a while to make my bookings as it kept saying seats are sold out until I finally managed to do it. I am happy I'll be flying back to the UAE - the country where I was raised and call home."

Anupam Nair, a lead singer of a Dubai-based band, had travelled to Delhi in mid-March for his shows. While his gigs kept getting cancelled one after the other due to the Covid-19 pandemic, his desperate attempts to return also kept failing.

"I had booked on two chartered flights earlier and both got cancelled. There was no communication and no clarity. Luckily, I got my money back. Then we heard about this India-UAE travel pact. I paid Dh3,028 for a Business Class ticket on a flydubai flight. I am finally due to travel tomorrow and I still can't believe it," said Nair, lead singer of Rooh.

"I have never been so eager to pay for anything ever before. I paid quite a bit of money for my return travel, but it's still far less than what many of the chartered flights were charging. they were exorbitant amounts. I want this stress to be finally over and can't wait to be in Dubai."

Saniya Wahi, another eager resident, is also waiting to set foot in the UAE. "I came to India for my brother's wedding that also got cancelled. The few months have only been about searching for ways to travel back and doing Zoom meetings. Dubai has opened up and I can't wait to go back. Upon arrival, I have lined up work meetings from July 16," said Wahi, a wedding planner.

Two Emiratis on Kerala flight to Dubai

One of the first charter flights from India to the UAE is being organised by Emirates Companies House (ECH), a Dubai-based business set-up and documentation centre.

Iqbal Marconi, managing director of ECH said the flight will depart from Kozhikode International Airport in Kerala at 2.30pm and is expected to land in Dubai around 6pm. Each ticket is priced at Dh1,147.

"A total of 175 passengers, including two Emirati nationals, will be returning to the UAE on this flight," said Marconi. "A lot of our customers have been stranded in India since March. Many came for a short vacation and got stranded and most of their families are back in the UAE. Many also got stuck due to the flight suspensions," added Marconi. "There could be some last-minute cancellations as some people may have expired Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) or General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) approvals."

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