Dozens of stranded residents land on first flights from India to the UAE

Ticket prices surge as thousands try to get home after months stuck abroad

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Latest: Thousands of stranded UAE residents set to return home from South Asia

Dozens of people from India landed in Dubai on Thursday after UAE authorities eased travel restrictions during the week for six countries on its flight ban list.

Flights from Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Peshawar and Karachi were among those that landed at Dubai Airport.

It is believed thousands more are waiting for approval to return and are expected to reach the UAE over the next few weeks.

The surge in travel has caused ticket prices to soar, with a one-way ticket from Mumbai on an Emirates flight which usually costs about Dh1,000 priced at Dh6,900 on August 11.

Godly Babukutty, owner of Epic Travel In Dubai, said he had booked tickets for at least a dozen Indian residents who had travelled from Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi and landed in Dubai on Thursday.

"I was helping them get approval and it was quite simple," Mr Babukutty said.

“The flights were empty as residents are still waiting to get the approvals and we are expecting to help more than 100 people return to the Emirates in the next week."

Godly Babukutty, owner of Epic Travel In Dubai, booked tickets for a dozen Indian residents who landed in Dubai on Thursday. Courtesy: Godly Babukutty

Mr Babukutty said many travellers were coming in from Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.

“We are receiving a lot of enquiries and are booking tickets but flight prices are going up now," he said.

Many residents had travelled due to emergencies or deaths in the family, and were looking to return to their homes in the UAE.

UAE authorities eased travel restrictions during the week for six countries on its flight ban list to allow some residents who are stranded abroad to fly back to the Emirates.

Fully vaccinated UAE visa holders are eligible, as long as they received their vaccines from clinics in the UAE. Unvaccinated residents can return if they are school pupils, teachers, university students, lecturers, medical workers, or people who work for federal and local government.

But those outside the country must apply for permission from the UAE's ICA and GDRFA immigration authorities.

Sneha David, a social studies teacher at Gems Millenium School Sharjah, said she was excited as she planned to return on August 8.

“I had not been able to travel home to see my parents in Mumbai for two years during the pandemic so I came here in July though it was a big risk,” Ms David said. "I did not know when I would be able to go back. I thought I would be stuck here but I kept praying."

Sneha David, a social studies teacher at Gems Millenium School Sharjah, is excited to return to the UAE. Courtesy: Sneha David

The Indian teacher has applied for ICA approval and has her flight booked on Sunday.

Her one-way flight to Dubai cost her Dh550 and her return flight cost her close to Dh1,000.

When she tried to postpone her flight to August 11, the lowest priced ticket was Dh 6,900.

"I am very excited to come back to the UAE and get back to school," she said.

"There are many teachers who have been stuck here and have been unable to come back.”

Meanwhile, many others are still taking long routes back to the Emirates.

Abhinah Jauhri, 29, Jatin Kumar, 30, and Dharmesh Kukrela, 27, landed at Terminal 1 on Thursday.

The three software engineers came back to Dubai after spending 14 days in Uzbekistan.

“We booked our tickets much before the new announcement came in,” Mr Jauhri said.

“Flying directly from India was not an option for us. All three of us received the AstraZeneca vaccine in India and currently those who have been vaccinated in the UAE are being cleared to travel.

“We’ve spent two weeks in Uzbekistan so we don’t have to quarantine in Dubai. They took our PCR swabs after landing, the reports should come within 24 hours and we are free to go out if they are negative. We hope to go back to work on Sunday.”

Updated: August 05, 2021, 1:58 PM