Emirates flies two families on 360-seat plane from India to Dubai amid Covid-19 travel ban

Indian businessman's family were among nine passengers allowed to fly as they have UAE golden visas

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An Emirates passenger jet flew to Dubai from Kochi in southern India with only two families on board overnight on Saturday.

A Dubai businessman's family and another group were the nine passengers on board the 360-seater Emirates aircraft that landed in Dubai early on Sunday from Kochi, in Kerala state.

Younus Hassan, chairman of Al Ershad Computers, told The National that as holders of 10-year UAE golden visas his family could travel, despite the suspension of passenger travel from India to the UAE until June 30.

He spent Dh9,000 ($2,450) on tickets for his wife Hafsa Younus and children Mohammad Hani Hamdan, Mohammad Hilal, Nihala and Nujum, whose ages range from 10 to 20, to travel back to Dubai.

The family bought economy tickets but were permitted to sit in business class.

The children told their father they each had a member of cabin crew assigned to take care of them.

“It was a memorable trip. They got an exclusive, one-to-one service. They were told they could sit anywhere and each of them had an air hostess to help from boarding right up to immigration in Dubai,” Mr Hassan said.

“The flight crew even assisted them with the Covid-19 test at the airport.”

Mr Hassan had travelled with his family to Kerala on vacation in April and returned to Dubai before the suspension of flights.

Regular flights from India to the UAE have been halted since April 24 after a surge in Covid-19 cases and the rise of a new variant.

"My family waited for some time in India because we thought the ban may be lifted after Eid but when it continued, we decided they should come back," said the businessman.

“The notification said that golden visa holders are exempt and can fly, so this was possible for us.”

The 48-year-old businessman runs computer retail and service stores in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Bahrain.

On Sunday, Emirates airline extended its suspension on passenger flights from India until June 30.

Passengers who have transited through India in the past 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE.

UAE citizens, holders of UAE golden visas and members of diplomatic missions are exempt from the restrictions.

Groups of passengers from India have entered Dubai on charter flights.

But the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority has warned it would prohibit private jet operators from pooling seats on charter flights, although family groups would still be allowed to hire jets.