Air India Express flouts Covid rules, grounded in Dubai
Two Covid positive passengers were allowed to board flights in violation of rules.
The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) has suspended Air India Express flights for 15 days for flying two passengers with Covid-19 positive test results from India to Dubai on two separate occasions.
The authority has informed the airline that the suspension officially began on 12am on Friday (September 18) and will end on 11.59pm on October 2.
Notice of the suspension has been sent to the regional manager of Air India and Air India Express in the Gulf and Mena region.
The DCAA notice said: "Boarding a passenger with Covid-19 positive test result for the second time, is contrary to and is in violation of the laid down procedures and/or protocols relating to air travel to and from airports in the emirate of Dubai, during the coronavirus SARS Cov2 pandemic."
The passengers arrived in Dubai on two separate flights from Delhi and Jaipur on August 28 and September 4, respectively, said Air India Express in a statement to Khaleej Times. The airline has introduced additional flights from Sharjah International Airport to accommodate the affected passengers, the budget airline stated.
Co-passengers undergo tests; quarantined
Air India Express confirmed that the airline has received a suspension notice from DCAA. It said: "The notice has been issued on account of erroneous acceptance of two Covid-19 positive passengers by the airline's ground handling agents, one at Delhi and another at Jaipur."
It added: "As per information gathered, passengers who were seated in close proximity to the Covid-19 positive passenger on each flight have undergone tests and quarantined as determined by the Dubai Health Authority."
3-tier checking mechanism
In its statement, the airline said it has reiterated the instructions to ground handling agencies in India to strictly adhere to the regulations and SOPs in relation to acceptance of passengers on the airline's flights. Furthermore, the handling agencies concerned have taken punitive action against the employees responsible for the lapse in Delhi and Jaipur.
"Air India Express has advised the handling agents to implement a three-tier checking mechanism to avoid any such lapse in the future," it said. The airline pointed out that prior to receiving the notice, it had submitted a letter to the DCAA expressing the airline's profuse apologies and detailing the various actions taken by it in association with the ground handling agents concerned to safeguard against repeat of such incidents.
Meanwhile, DCAA has asked Air India to pay for all the expenditures incurred by the respective authorities on medical and or quarantine of any passenger on the flights carrying the two Covid positive travellers.
The notice added: "For the resumption of operation to Dubai Airports, you (Air India) will be requested to submit a detailed corrective action/procedure implemented to prevent such incidents from occurring again, which the authority will review and assess."
Negative test a must
Air India Express has been operating special repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat Mission banner since May, ever since India has shut down its scheduled international flights amid the pandemic. However, India has signed an air bubble agreement with UAE that is valid till October 31.
The UAE has made it mandatory for all incoming passengers to procure a Covid-19 negative test result. Passengers travelling from India can get the test done from a Pure Health or an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) approved laboratory.
In an earlier interview with Khaleej Times, Neeraj Agarwal, Consul - Press, Information and Culture at the Consulate General of India in Dubai, said a total of 368,000 Indians have been repatriated since the start of the Vande Bharat Mission. Roughly 6,000-6,500 passengers are flying between both countries every day, with a higher prevalence of reverse migration.
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