Covid-19: Stranded Indian expats arrive in Abu Dhabi on Etihad flights
At Abu Dhabi International Airport, heartwarming scenes of reunion unfolded as every waiting person had a different story to tell.
Hundreds of stranded expats returned to Abu Dhabi as Etihad Airways resumed services from select Indian cities of New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday.
At Abu Dhabi International Airport, heartwarming scenes of reunion unfolded as every waiting person had a story to tell.
Sundaresan, an Abu Dhabi visa-holder who stays in Dubai, was so desperate to see his family again that he had booked tickets with six airlines.
“My wife Meenakashi and kids Pranav, 10, and Nethra, 9, went home in March. I was desperate to get them back. But the past two days were like a suspense movie filled with thrills, twists and turns,” Sundaresan shared.
“I am staying in Discovery Gardens and naturally tried Dubai-based airlines. I booked tickets with SpiceJet, IndiGo, Air India Express, flydubai and Emirates. Many got cancelled, and flydubai and Emirates didn’t permit those with Abu Dhabi visa. So, today at 8am, I booked with Etihad,” he said, showing the several tickets he booked in the past 24 hours.
A relieved Meenakashi recollected how she and kids endured a nine-hour journey from her native place to Bangalore International Airport only to find out that Dubai-based airlines weren’t permitting Abu Dhabi visa-holders.
“I just know that my husband booked tickets in almost all flights to get us back. You never know when any airlines change their policies. We are just thrilled to be back in Dubai via Abu Dhabi.”
Both Etihad Airways and Emirates maintain that a passenger holding a valid UAE residence visa can travel on their flights from India to the UAE. Both airlines haven’t specified if one needs to be a resident of any particular emirate.
Meenakashi, after reaching her home in Dubai, said she didn’t need to undergo quarantine after taking an airport taxi from Abu Dhabi.
“We have taken a PCR test at the Abu Dhabi airport and are now awaiting results. We don’t need to quarantine if I test negative. But my husband wasted time travelling to Abu Dhabi from Dubai and taking a DPI test to enter the emirate, as we had to compulsorily take a taxi from the airport to exit Abu Dhabi.”
Etihad Help noted that passengers landing in Abu Dhabi can travel to another emirate only on airport taxi, Etihad chauffeur or Etihad express coach.
“If you take our coach, chauffeur or airport taxi to Dubai straight away after you complete the arrival tests in Abu Dhabi airport, you won’t need to quarantine,” Etihad Help said.
It was a different experience for Abu Dhabi resident Mohammed Irfan, who was finally reunited with his family after four months.
“My wife Nayab, son Ayman, sister Ayesha and her husband Burhan were first booked for Emirates. They did a PCR test and a rapid test at the airport, but they were denied check-in as they are Abu Dhabi visa holders. We came to know late about Etihad resuming services. Anyhow, I am so happy that they are finally back here.”
Explaining the precautionary measures, Nayab said: “After the PCR test at the airport, we are all home now. Adults have to wear a tracking device, which we activate after entering our home. This will help the authorities know our location. We have to take two PCR tests now.”
An unvaccinated Abu Dhabi resident has managed to return as he works in a key sector, which is an exempted category.
“I travelled from Mangalore to Bengaluru. I had previously tried landing in Dubai but couldn’t get through and wasted money. However, Etihad resuming services has come as a blessing to all Abu Dhabi visa holders and residents,” said an expat.
All the passengers Khaleej Times spoke to said they were able to easily get green-tick approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA), allowing them to board the flight to Abu Dhabi. On Saturday, Etihad operated services from New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kochi.
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