India increases destinations for repatriation flights from UAE

Indian national carriers will fly to more cities between August 1 and 6

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India's national airlines will start operating flights from the UAE to new destinations across India to repatriate those who wish to return home.

On Sunday, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation said Air India would operate repatriation flights between August 1 and 6 to select destinations, which were not disclosed.

In the UAE, these flights will pick up Indian citizens from Sharjah and take back passengers "of certain categories" from India to the emirate, the state news agency Wam reported.

A more detailed schedule including flights by other Indian carriers such as Air India Express and some private airlines is being finalised and is expected to be released before August 1.

The new schedule is part of Phase 5 of "Vande Bharat", or Salute India, repatriation flights.

Air India said that the flights within the country as part of the repatriation schedule would not accommodate domestic passengers.

They are meant exclusively for arrivals on the repatriation programme to be connected to destinations within India.

The UAE and India grounded flights in March to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Regular passenger flights have yet to resume in India, but repatriation flights from the UAE have been in operation for months.

The two countries also agreed to operate select flights between July 12 and 26 to take Indian residents of the UAE back to the Emirates.

About 210,000 Indians have been repatriated from the UAE since May 7 and an estimated 10,000 residents have travelled back to the Emirates from India in the past few weeks.

This month, officials said more than 500,000 people had registered with the Indian consulate and embassy to return home.

They said that despite the high registration numbers, many chose to stay in the UAE to search for jobs now that more businesses are reopening.

Talks are under way to extend the arrangement between the two countries for flights to bring back residents back to the UAE.