India-UAE travel: Stranded expats eye charter flights as last resort

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Dubai - There has also been a drastic drop in outbound traffic from the UAE to India.


James Jose

Published: Sat 3 Jul 2021, 10:17 PM

With the India-UAE travel suspended ‘until further notice’, some stranded expats are eyeing charter flights as a last resort, while some have no choice but to wait for the restriction to be lifted.

There has also been a drastic drop in outbound traffic from the UAE to India, with many expats cancelling or postponing their vacations due to the uncertainty of when they would be able to return.

Expat Shradha Salla, who has been stranded with her two daughters in India’s financial capital Mumbai, will wait until the end of this month before taking a call on returning on a charter flight.

“We were planning to return to Dubai in April and, suddenly, this happened. Since then, we have been waiting. I haven’t seen my husband since November. I will look at a charter as a last-ditch attempt. I’m now mentally prepared to wait until the end of July. If flights open before that, I will be on the first flight,” Shradha said.

“To be honest, I did look at private charters and considered that as an option. But then every time I started looking, there were chances of the suspension being lifted and we kept waiting. I’m not keen on an alternative route since we have to quarantine for 14 days,” added Shradha, whose relocation plans have taken a hit.

Sanket Sarnobat, who works in the hospitality industry, said he had no option but to wait until flights resume.

Sarnobat had travelled to his home in Mumbai on vacation on February 25 and had extended it by another month. “The company called and asked if I could return just before the travel suspension took effect, but I couldn’t do anything at the last minute,” said the expat, who managed to keep his job but had to deal with some pay cuts.

Travel agents in Dubai said that while expats continue to consider alternate routes, there has been a significant drop in outbound traffic for Eid Al Adha.

“Another situation facing the airlines is that not a lot of people are considering travelling to India this year because of the current situation,” said Bharat Aidasani, managing partner of Pluto Travels.

“There has been a drastic drop in numbers of people travelling from the UAE to India. People have cancelled their vacations to India. They fear how they will be able to come back. So, during Eid, not many people will travel unless it is an emergency. Normally, from June 25 until July 10, there is a lot of traffic for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. With schools also set to start in September, they are worried if they can make it back in time,” he added.

Raja Mir Wasim, manager for MICE and holidays at International Travel Services, hoped that the suspension would be lifted after Eid Al Adha. “I’m hopeful that they might open up after Eid.”

Wasim said one of the options stranded expats are looking at is Serbia. “But only Qatar Airways flies from India to Serbia and all flights are full till the end of July,” he said.

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