Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Stranded Indian expats rush to get back on first flights to UAE

Expats stranded in India for months are rushing to book flight tickets back to their 'second home'. This came as the UAE and Indian civil aviation authorities signed an agreement to allow special repatriation flights to take Indians home and for residents currently in India to return to the UAE.

Starting July 12, passengers will be flying on flights operated by the UAE carriers and the Indian government's Vande Bharat Mission for 15 days. Eligible passengers travelling on India-UAE flights will need to carry a Covid-19 negative test result, conducted not more than 96 hours before departure.

Shariq Khan, who went for a family wedding, had not imagined that his return would be so difficult. "I came to India in February. I have finally booked my tickets and am returning on July 20. I feel the anxious wait is finally over. My mother and I are returning to my father who has been alone all this while. That has been quite a matter of concern for us, apart from the fact that my business has also been suffering," said Khan, a Dubai resident and founder of Gravity Events Management.

"I am paying Dh1,465 for each ticket on Air India Express from Delhi. I did thorough research before booking my tickets as a lot of flights were getting cancelled. It took me a while to make my bookings as it kept saying seats are sold out until I finally managed to do it. I am happy I'll be flying back to the UAE - the country where I was raised and call home."

Anupam Nair, the lead singer of a Dubai-based band, had travelled to Delhi in mid-March for his shows. While his gigs kept getting cancelled one after the other due to the Covid-19 pandemic, his desperate attempts to return also kept failing.

"I had booked tickets on two chartered flights earlier and both got cancelled. There was no communication and no clarity. Luckily, I got my money back. Then we heard about this India-UAE travel pact. I paid Dh3,028 for a business class ticket on a flydubai flight. I am finally due to travel tomorrow and I still can't believe it," said Nair, lead singer of Rooh.

"I have never been so eager to pay for anything ever before. I paid quite a bit of money for my return travel, but it's still far less than what many of the chartered flights were charging. I want this stress to be finally over and can't wait to get to Dubai."

Saniya Wahi, another eager resident, is also waiting to set foot in the UAE. "I came to India for my brother's wedding that also got cancelled. These past few months have only been about searching for ways to travel back and work-related Zoom meetings. Dubai has opened up and I can't wait to get back. Upon arrival, I have lined up work meetings from July 16," said Wahi, a wedding planner.
13/07/20 Khaleej Times/MENAFN

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