India-UAE travel corridor extended until August 31
The UAE and India had earlier agreed to operate a two-week travel corridor between July 12 to 26.
The temporary travel corridor between India and the UAE will be operational until August 31, the Indian envoy has said.
In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times on Monday, August 3, Pavan Kapoor, ambassador of India to the UAE, said tickets on all inbound and outbound flights will be open for bookings from August 5. "We are easing up the procedure. All airlines - both the UAE and Indian airlines operating in the sector - will be able to book their passengers online or through their agents or ticketing offices in both directions."
While India has extended the freeze on commercial air travel until the end of August, the UAE and India had agreed to operate a two-week travel corridor between July 12 to 26.
Kapoor said that around 23,000 to 25,000 residents have travelled back to the UAE from India during the two-week window, and many more are awaiting travel approvals from the UAE government.
The envoy said anywhere between 600 and 700 flights will operate during the one-month travel arrangement. "But this is not cast in stone. We are starting this process at certain numbers. If we feel that there is more demand, we can raise it further."
According to Kapoor, the Indian government has no data on the number of stranded people wanting to fly to the UAE.
"Our sense is that we want to operate flights that are reasonably full. But the difficulty is there is no means to know the number. The latest figure that I received two weeks ago from the UAE authorities is that about 25,000 to 30,000 people have got approvals to return to the country."
Khaleej Times had earlier highlighted the difficulties faced by UAE residents stuck in India. Many are unable to travel back to the UAE and reunite with their families due to lack of approval from the ICA (Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship). Dubai residents have to apply to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) for approvals to return.
The ambassador said the embassy has taken up the matter and expedited approvals in many cases where families were stranded.
He said the new regulation allowing passengers to conduct their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test at any government-accredited laboratory has also made the travel easier for Indians. Earlier, the UAE had announced all returning residents, visit visa holders and tourists must carry a PCRnegative test result from an ICA-approved Pure Health network of laboratories.. And many Indian cities do not have Pure Health labs.
When asked about the resumption of normal travel between the two countries, the envoy said the month-long extension of the travel window and the opening up of online booking for both inbound and outbound travel is certainly "one step towards that".
"Opening up regular flights is not yet possible. The main constraining factor is that the state governments in India have to give the approval to receive flights. They have to make a judgement call based on the quarantine facilities available, the arrival procedures and also the behaviour of the virus," he added. In India, the coronavirus infections have crossed 1.4 million with 38,135 deaths to date.
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