British visitors in limbo as UK government suspends flights from UAE

UK bans direct flights from the UAE, Rwanda and Burundi

Jodie Frost was in Dubai on business when the flight suspension was announced. Courtesy: Jodie Frost
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British citizens in the UAE trying to return to the UK are in limbo after direct flights were suspended on Friday.

A number of flights were cancelled between the two countries after the UK added the UAE – with Rwanda and Burundi – to its travel "red list".

Britons in the Emirates who had scheduled flights to return home within the next few days, were left scrambling for alternative travel options.

Jodie Frost, 38, a managing director from the UK, said she was in Dubai on business when the announcement was made.

"I heard the news last night and have been trying to figure out my next steps ever since," she told The National.

“I was due to fly to the UK on Saturday from Dubai. When I tried to bring my flight forward to Friday morning I was quoted nearly £2,000 ($2,735) for a ticket.

“I’m now in limbo and I’m staying in an airbnb in Jumeirah Lakes Towers and I don’t know how long I need to extend for.”

With a return ticket on British Airways, Ms Frost said she had still not received any cancellation notice from the airline on Friday morning.

But when she tried to complete the online check-in for her Saturday flight, she was unable to.

“I live in the UK but I’m a business owner in Dubai so I visit a lot to hold meetings and catch up with paperwork,” she said.

“I can’t help but feel frustrated at this announcement because I wasn’t here on a vacation like many others.

“They say we can return to the UK but it has to be via another country, which makes no sense to me at all.”

Karen Lear, a long-term resident in Dubai, said her son was scheduled to fly to London Heathrow via Emirates on Sunday.

"Emirates have actually been really good this morning, they changed my son's ticket to go to the UK via Munich in Germany on Sunday," she said.

“He arrived in the UAE on December 10 but got Covid-19 just before Christmas so extended his time here to recover and fulfil his quarantine.

“He was then furloughed from his job in the UK so extended his trip to January 31, but then we heard the announcement last night.

“The UK government are changing things so quickly with no notice, there is just no certainty for passengers and it's very unsettling.”

Although her son contemplated staying in the UAE until more clarity was issued regarding travel, Ms Lear said he decided to book his onward flight via Munich to avoid having to pay for hotel quarantine in the UK, which may soon be introduced in the country.

“He will be flying out on Sunday so we just hope Germany doesn’t make any knee-jerk decisions like the UK government which end up leaving him stranded there," she said.

“It seems completely illogical to say you can come back to the UK but you have to pass through another country first.

“I have several friends in Dubai who are due to fly to the UK in the next few weeks, one for the arrival of her granddaughter, but I don’t know what they’ll do now.”

Fran Ces, 57, who has lived in the UAE for four years, was on one of the last flights out of the UAE to Glasgow on Friday morning.

She was travelling back to Scotland to pick up her 17-year-old daughter and bring her back to Dubai.

"I booked my flight on Thursday morning and I’m on my way on one of the last flights into the UK [from the UAE]," she said, speaking from Dubai International Airport on Friday.

"I'm so worried I’ll get stuck but the plan is to get out as soon as I have booked a PCR test for my daughter and I.

"I’m collecting her from the UK so she can finish her studies in Dubai. Once we have our PCR test in hand I plan on getting a transit flight via Dublin or Paris out to Dubai again.

"I feel like we are all getting impacted by [publicity] brought on by [influencers], but some journeys are essential and genuine."

Another passenger, who asked not to be named, said his flight was due to land in Manchester on Friday afternoon but was changed at the last minute to arrive in London instead.

“Having fully complied with all guidance when I came over to Dubai to visit my dad, Emirates cancelled my flight back to Manchester saying it was due to the UK’s ban on flights," he said from the plane in Dubai.

"This was despite the fact that the flight was due to land before the ban came into force."

He said he was given no option but to take the flight and was trying to figure out how he could travel from London to Manchester, because the airline did not offer a travel connection.

On Thursday night, the UAE extended visit visas without charge for British travellers affected by the UK's decision to suspend flights from the Emirates.