Coronavirus: Dubai residents need permission to travel before booking holidays

Travellers must apply to immigration authority before booking return flight with Emirates airline

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Dubai residents who are travelling abroad this summer with Emirates Airline must apply for permission from the government before booking a flight.

Passengers must submit an online form to Dubai's immigration service, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs.

If successful, they will be given a reference number needed to book flights online or with airline staff.

Emirates clarified the process in an update to its website on Wednesday.

Other airlines operating out of Dubai do not require the directorate's number to book tickets and leave the country.

But passengers would need it to re-enter the country and are advised to apply before they leave.

You will be asked for your GDRFA application number to complete your travel booking, either online or through our call centre

Passengers who booked flights before the system was introduced, including with Emirates, would still need approval to re-enter.

Emirates reminded travellers that it does not manage the application process nor can it check on an applicants' status.

The process for Dubai holidaymakers is the same for residents who were stuck abroad when the borders closed in March, who also need to get the directorate's permission before booking a flight home.

"All Dubai residents must do this, whether you are returning after the travel restrictions or you want to fly out of Dubai and return," the airline said.

"If your application is approved, you will receive an email with a GDRFA reference number. If the application can’t be processed, you can try again later.

"Once you have your approval, you can book your ticket and you will be asked to enter your GDRFA reference number."

A senior airline official said the process would give Dubai residents "assurance that they can come back before they fly out".

Travellers must enter their destination and the file number on their residency visa.

They must agree that they will bear the expenses of treatment and quarantine, via through their insurance or otherwise, should they return home to the Emirates and test positive for Covid-19.

All passengers landing in Dubai will be tested for the virus and must isolate themselves until their results are ready, which takes several days.

They must download an app that allows them to be monitored while in quarantine.

Dubai residents who have a visa from another emirate cannot use the service. Instead, they must use the separate federal ICA/Tawajudi site.

Emirates has reopened dozens of routes for travellers in recent weeks after restrictions were eased, while flydubai will operate flights to 24 cities from next week. Tourists can return to Dubai from July 7.

Dubai does not have a list of permitted and restricted destinations as such. Instead, passengers can book any flight operated from its airports and airlines.

New federal rules on travel and testing

The federal government has not yet set out when scheduled flights will operate from the country's other airports, but was expected to do so soon.

On Sunday night, national emergency authority Ncema it said "all returning residents" had to be tested in the country they were in, before boarding a flight to the UAE.

Officials said they had identified clinics and labs in 109 cities and 17 countries that can test and issue certificates stating the traveller was Covid-free.

Travellers returning from a country without a recognised clinic would be tested on landing in the Emirates, but must stay in quarantine for 14 days.

The decision is not thought to affect the separate rules outlined by Dubai's government in recent days.

Etihad Airways is operating flights that transit through Abu Dhabi, but not scheduled services for residents or tourists until July.

It has also run inbound and outbound repatriation flights, and crucial aid missions to countries in need in recent months.