Thursday, April 29, 2021

Curbs on transit Indian passengers land NRIs in trouble

Kochi: NRIs who were planning to return to the Gulf countries, especially to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, were severely hit when those countries suspended direct flights from India following the second wave of Covid-19.Their plans to return to the workplaces via transit countries like Nepal and Maldives also suffered a jolt with governments there tightening norms for Indian passengers. NRIs who were planning to return to Kerala during Ramadan have postponed their travel plans fearing that they might not able to return to the Gulf from India soon.

After the suspension of flight to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, NRIs would travel via Nepal, Maldives and Bahrain. There they quarantine themselves for two weeks and get an RT-PCR test done before proceeding to their destination. However, the Nepal government has now decided to restrict Indian transit passengers and not provide RT-PCR tests. “Nepal was the preferred route as it was economical compared to other countries. But with new restrictions, Maldives and Bahrain are remaining routes to reach the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” said Paulose K Mathew, chairman of Coraz Travels and Trade Links.

But on Monday, the Maldives tourism ministry banned stay for Indian travellers in inhabited islands. “This means Indians can only access luxury resorts and hotels situated on sparsely populated islands. This will be a very costly affair for NRI returning to the gulf countries. We fear Bahrain too may impose new restrictions soon considering the number of Covid cases reported in India,” he said.

Haneesh K H, who works in the air ticketing industry as a freelancer, said Nepal may permit transit passengers arriving from India on flights of Air India and Royal Nepal Airlines as per the air bubble agreement between the countries. But many NRIs are afraid to travel to India for holidays now. “NRIs used to travel to Kerala to be with their families during Ramadan. But most fear that they may not be able to return to the Gulf due to the Covid situation in the country,” he said. 

Also, exorbitant airfares are a deterrent. “Ticket prices are skyrocketing each day. Last week when Dubai service was still operational, the ticket fair was close to Rs 50,000 for economy class, five times more than the normal price,” he said.

29/04/21 New Indian Express

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