UAE residents, tourists stranded as flights cancelled; some travel 18 hours to reach Dubai

As heavy rains hit the country on Tuesday, multiple flights were cancelled and airport operations came to a halt


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sun 21 Apr 2024, 6:19 PM

Last updated: Mon 22 Apr 2024, 7:11 AM

For Dubai resident Sophie Davis, a trip to the South Korean city of Seoul has been a dream ever since she began enjoying Korean dramas and music. During the Eid Al Fitr holidays, her much-awaited dream came true when she jetted off to Seoul from Dubai for an 8-day holiday along with 24 of her friends and family members.

However, her dream trip quickly spiralled into a nightmare when her return flight to Dubai on Friday afternoon (April 19) was cancelled. “My husband is a doctor, and he already had a full calendar of appointments after the long Eid break,” she said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “We wanted to get back to Dubai as soon as possible.”

Sophie Davis (right) with her husband
Sophie Davis (right) with her husband

The rebooking process was extremely complicated as she was part of a big group. “Our agency was trying to rebook everyone in the same flight, and it was logistical chaos,” she said. “We spent hours at the airline counter, but it soon became clear that it would be at least four days before we could get a flight back home.”

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As an impact of the flight cancellations, tickets from Seoul to Dubai on other airlines more than doubled. “On Friday, there were tickets available for roughly Dh2,500 on other airlines,” she said. “But we were hopeful that the airline might be able to rebook us the next day. However, the next day the same tickets were going for Dh5,500.”

That’s when the couple made the decision to fly into Dubai with a stopover. “We booked a flight that transited at Thailand for seven hours,” she said. “It took us almost eighteen hours to reach Dubai as opposed to the ten hours it would have taken from Seoul, but we are back in the country in time for my husband to see his patients on Monday. That is all that mattered.”

Bridal makeup over video call

For Indian makeup artist Fidha Jafer, a trip to Dubai for a client’s wedding was supposed to be a fun time for her. She arrived on April 12 with her assistant.

After two days of work and exploring the city, she was ready to go back home for her remaining appointments when rain played spoilsport. “I was supposed to fly back at 1.30am on April 17,” she said. “I reported to the airport more than five hours before my flight, but it was cancelled.”

Fidha Jafer
Fidha Jafer

She spent the rest of the evening trying to find a hotel room to stay in for the night. “All the hotels had increased the prices astronomically and it took us several hours to find one hotel that had a free room,” she said.

However, her true misery was just about to begin. “When my travel agent called to say that there were no flights for at least a few days, I began to hyperventilate,” she recalled. “I had a bridal appointment on that day in India who had specifically booked me. Imagine calling a bride on the day of her wedding and saying that her makeup artist won't come.”

Although she gave the bride the option to hire another person for makeup, the bride decided to stick to Fidha’s team. “A senior member of my team did the bride’s makeup while I joined on video call and supervised it,” she said. “That bride was the most understanding when I informed her, and I will be forever thankful for the trust she had in my team.”

The bride
The bride

On April 18, she drove to Abu Dhabi — a trip that took her three hours — and took a flight at 11pm to Kochi with a layover in Colombo. Once there, she embarked on an almost six-hour drive to make it in the nick of time for another bridal appointment. “It was my first international trip for work, and it turned out to be an unforgettable one,” she said.

An extended vacation

For British visitors Caroline and Derek Harvarde who came to Dubai to visit their daughter Kelly, it has turned into an extended vacation. “They were supposed to leave on Wednesday,” said Kelly. “They checked in online and waited at the airport for over 10 hours before being told the flight was cancelled.”

Caroline's family
Caroline's family

Kelly’s nanny Grace, who was visiting family in Philippines has also been unable to return. However, Kelly said she was not complaining. “We are all safe,” she said. “My parents were able to come back to our house and Grace is safe with her family.”

She said she is thankful despite challenges. “Our house leaked and was a mess during the rain,” she said. “But as I ran the washing machine for the sixth time the day after the showers, I thought that we have a lot of be grateful for. Imagine trying to survive in a refugee camp in Gaza in this weather.”


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