UAE residents stranded in India can return on Vande Bharat flights; chartered services get go-ahead

air india, vande bharat flights, covid-19, coronavirus, stranded UAE residents, air india express

Dubai - Vande Bharat Mission's evacuation flights will allow only UAE residents with ICA approvals to return to the UAE.

By Anjana Sankar and Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Thu 9 Jul 2020, 2:47 PM

Last updated: Sat 11 Jul 2020, 4:12 AM

UAE residents currently stuck in India can fly back to the emirates on the Indian government's Vande Bharat Mission flights for a period of 15 days starting July 12, Indian civil aviation authorities have announced.

An agreement for the same has been signed between the civil aviation authorities of the two countries, putting an end to the long traumatic wait for hundreds of Indians. Many are currently stranded in India since March when both the UAE and India closed their airspaces to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Chartered flights operated by UAE carriers to repatriate Indians home will also be allowed to carry ICA-approved UAE residents on their return leg from India to UAE, India's civil aviation ministry has clarified. India had suspended giving permission to chartered flights operated by UAE carriers since the beginning of this week.

Only passengers who have the ICA or GDRFA approvals to return to the country can fly back on the Air India and Air India Express outbound journey from India to UAE, Air India tweeted on Thursday. This arrangement will be operational for a period of 15 days, from July 12 to July 26, said the airline in a tweet. The same applies to passengers opting to fly back on chartered flights.

Indian authorities said the arrangement will be "reviewed as required" after the current operational period.

Authorities said the travel agreement was reached "with a view to assisting UAE resident nationals who are presently in India to return to the UAE", and reflects the close strategic partnership between the governments of the two countries.

Since the launch of the Vande Bharat Mission in May, empty Air India Express flights have been flying into the UAE to repatriate distressed Indian citizens wanting to go home. More than 125,000 Indians have flown back home from UAE alone. In its fourth phase, the mission will operate 104 more new flights from UAE.

However, hundreds of Indians with UAE residency visas were unable to return as India continues its freeze on international flights. Many families and residents have been appealing to their government to facilitate their return to the UAE where their jobs are at stake and families waiting. Many had even resorted to chartering business jets into the UAE by coughing up a whopping Dh11,000 for a seat. UAE-bound passengers were devastated after India recently banned luxury jets from operating to the UAE, as reported by Khaleej Times on Wednesday.
13 expats split Dh135,000 cost to fly on a private jet to Dubai

The latest announcement has come as a huge relief for scores of Indians, who are living and working in the UAE.

Commenting on the re-launch of flights to the UAE, an Air India official in Dubai told Khaleej Times, "The flights to the UAE will operate from all cities where Vande Bharat Mission repatriation flights are operating."

Travel agents in the UAE told Khaleej Times they have begun accepting bookings on this sector.

Afi Ahmed, the managing director of Smart Travels said, "We have started taking Air India and Air India Express PNR bookings. Most of the passenger interest is coming from the Kerala to UAE sector as a majority of UAE expatriates are in Kerala making the passenger load extremely high. The state is also home to four airports." Ahmed added, "Booking interest is also high for UAE carriers such as Fly Dubai and Air Arabia."
The returning passengers must meet the following criteria, the airline said:
1. Have a valid ICA / GDRFA  General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs approval
2. Passengers are required to carry Covid-19 negative test result of the PCR test conducted not more than 96 hours before departure.
3. Submit health declaration form (click here)
4. Download the Covid-19 - DXB Smart App.
5. Submit quarantine undertaking form (click here)

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