India-UAE flights: Some stranded expats undertake 15-day journeys to return
The suspension of incoming passenger traffic from India to the UAE began on April 24.
Latest update: According to Air India Express, the UAE has suspended "all inbound passenger movement" from India until July 6. As on June 9, Emirates and Etihad airways websites say the suspension is till June 30. UAE nationals, holders of UAE Golden Visas and members of diplomatic missions are the only passengers allowed on flights from India. Chartered flights are allowed as well, subject to approval from the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
Currently, the only option for stranded residents to return to the UAE are 15-day journeys via countries like Uzbekistan and Armenia.
Emirates has extended the suspension of passenger flights from India to the UAE until June 30, the airline said on Sunday.
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“Passengers who have transited through India in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE,” Emirates airline announced on its website. However, UAE nationals, golden residency visa holders and diplomats, who comply with the revised Covid-19 protocols will be exempt from travel ban, the airline explained.
The suspension of incoming passenger traffic from India to the UAE began on April 24. It was extended on May 4 by the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) in light of a deadly second wave of Covid-19 currently affecting India. Last week, Emirates said passenger flights from India would remain suspended until at least June 14.
However, UAE’s flag carrier, Etihad Airways, has still maintained the date of suspension till June 14. However, the travel disruption between both countries, one of the world’s busiest air corridors, has left thousands of stranded expatriates in India desperate to return. Several expatriates are facing threats of job loss, visa expiry, and separation from their families.
At present, there are little to no options for Indian expatriates to return to their homes in the UAE, said Raheesh Babu, the general manager of Musafir.com, an online travel agency. He said: “The most popular route at the moment is via Tashkent, Uzbekistan. People are spending 15 days in quarantine in the city and then returning to the UAE. It is not a suitable journey, but people are getting desperate. They might lose their jobs if they stay on longer.”
Since April 24, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has placed stringent regulations for those wishing to charter private business jets. “Approvals to fly stranded families or employees of businesses are few and far between, even though the demand is very high. In rare cases, in the case of healthcare workers, for example, the hospital or company can put in a special request to the Immigration department to charter them. However, approvals remain a challenge,” stated Babu.
Afi Ahmed, the managing director of Smart Travels: “The Covid-19 numbers are extremely high in India, so I understand the UAE government’s decision. A lot of the stranded Indians are desperate to return, especially many of those whose visas are expiring.” He added, “Only those with a high earning capacity can quarantine in another country for 14 days; regular people cannot afford it.”
Many expatriates are requesting an exception be made for vaccinated individuals. Gurlal Singh, a Dubai resident, stranded in Amritsar, said: “Governments need to sympathise with people who are going to face job losses. At least allow fully vaccinated individuals to return.” Aathira Mohan, a Sharjah resident, said: “We are ready to pay to stay in hotels for 14 days, like the system that is being followed in the UK. Many of us are dependent on our jobs.”
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