Expats anxious as India withholds approvals for chartered flights
Passengers disappointed as two repatriation flights from the UAE could not take off on Saturday
UAE-based Indian welfare groups are anxious about the fate of future repatriation flights from the UAE after two chartered flights to India could not take off on Saturday in the absence of approvals from authorities in India.
The Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), a welfare organisation, said the Etihad Airways EY254 flight that it had chartered from Abu Dhabi to Kozhikode on Saturday had to be cancelled 'at the last moment' because the Directorate of General Civil Aviation (DGCA) did not send the permissions necessary for it to land in India.
The flight, carrying 183 passengers, was scheduled to take off at 2.20pm from the Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Even as official comments from Indian or UAE authorities were not immediately available, Indian media reports suggest that UAE carriers have been verbally informed of a decision barring them from operating any additional repatriation flights to India.
However, a lack of formal communication or reason for denying UAE carriers from operating repatriation flights is causing concern among expats, with more Indians from the UAE repatriated through flights operated by welafre groups and companies than those through government repatriation flights.
"We were taken by surprise because DGCA approvals usually come through only a few hours before the take-off. We had secured all necessary approvals from the Indian Embassy and the state government in Kerala. So we had no reason to worry," Shukoor Ali, President of KMCC Abu Dhabi, told Khaleej Times.
"We have no idea what is happening. No official authority or the airline has given us an intimation on why the approval was denied."
Ali said his organisation has, in the past months, operated 13 repatriation flights from Abu Dhabi, helping more than 2,500 Indians fly home. Except for the first two GoAir flights, all carriers were from Abu Dhabi's national airline Etihad.
Similarly, a repatriation flight from Sharjah to Madurai did not take off on Saturday morning due to the absence of DGCA approval. QMS, a Tamil social organsiation under the umbrella of KMCC, said 168 passengers could not fly home.
"We had chartered an Air Arabia flight after securing the other approvals. All the passengers arrived on time at the airport for the 4am flight but were left disappointed," Abdul Rahman, Treasurer of QMS, told Khaleej Times.
Sheikh Saleem of Hali management consultancy in Sharjah that booked the Air Arabia charter said the airline informed him that DGCA approvals were not forthcoming some repatriation flights. A flyDubai flight from Dubai to Madurai was also denied permission on Friday, he said.
Air Arabia declined to comment for this story. Comments from other UAE carriers operating repatriation flights was not immediately available.
India has extended until July 31 its ban on international flights, with Air India's Vande Bharat Mission tasked with flying stranded expats home. So far, more than 125,000 Indian expats from the UAE have been returned home during the last three months when scheduled flight services have been curtailed.
Indian airlines say they are not allowed to carry passengers to the UAE, and diplomatic sources maintain that negotiations between the UAE and India are ongoing to allow charters with passengers on both in-bound and out-bound flights.
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