Hundreds of British tourists who were in the UAE arrived home on Sunday on a flight organised by the British embassy.
345 passengers boarded the 9.40am Emirates EK2545 flight from Dubai International Airport.
The "self-standing flight” was organised with the help of the UAE government and Dubai Airports to get stranded Brits home as quickly as possible.
In turn, two planes chartered by UAE authorities will bring 80 Emirati nationals home from the UK on April 5 and 7. The first plane landed in the UAE on Sunday.
On March 24, the UAE suspended all inbound, outbound and transit passenger flights for a period of two weeks. Some British citizens who are residents or were travelling in/through the UAE were unable to return to the UK because of this.
The repatriated Emiratis were either studying or receiving medical treatment in the UK and were unable to return following the closure of UAE airports.
Khaled Belhoul, Undersecretary at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said that Sunday’s flight to the UAE is one of 43 flights organised to bring back 1,783 Emiratis from all around the world. He added that 22 evacuations are underway and shall be completed in the coming days to repatriate approximately 641 Emirati nationals.
Ambassador Patrick Moody, British Ambassador to the UAE, said: “I am delighted that 345 hundred British visitors to the UAE have now arrived home in the UK. I am equally delighted that Emiratis have returned to the UAE from the UK this week as well. This has happened because of the hard work of my team and the team at the UAE Embassy in London, and the fantastic cooperation of the UAE government.”
Ambassador Mansoor Abulhoul, UAE Ambassador to the United Kingdom, said: "I am delighted that we have been able to help Brits who were unable to return home after the closure of our airports. We have been working on this closely with the British government for the past week. I would like to thank all the travellers involved for their patience in these extraordinary circumstances."
Sheikh Maktoum bin Butti Al Maktoum, Director of the Dubai office of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said the ministry was continuing to organise clearances for flights to repatriate foreign nationals.
“At all times we have sought to minimise disruption to travellers’ lives, while limiting the spread of the coronavirus in the UAE,” he said.
British citizens who were in the UAE on March 24 were given permission to overstay their visas if necessary. A small number of British travellers were in transit in the UAE's airports when flights were suspended. Those with UAE residency status were moved to hotels in Dubai to start their home quarantine. The others were given accommodation and meals within the airport, either in an airside hotel or the business class lounge.
Last week, 32 British nationals were allowed to board a FlyDubai flight to Zagreb, Croatia, and tickets issued by other UAE carriers were accepted for that flight.
Over 100,000 British citizens live in the UAE.