Mother and daughter stuck in UK hotel quarantine after Dubai flight delayed

Faiza Shafi and Hawa Omar will share a room at the Radisson Blu hotel near Heathrow Airport for 10 days, at a cost of £2,400

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Related: Passengers scramble for indirect flights as experts slam UK quarantine system

A British mother and daughter who travelled from Dubai to London on Monday were among the first batch of passengers required to stay at quarantine hotels in the UK.

Hawa Omar, 52, and Faiza Shafi, 33, from east London, were taken to the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, near Heathrow Airport, after arriving from Dubai via Frankfurt in Germany.

They will share a twin room for 10 days, owing to Ms Omar's health issues, at a cost of £2,400 ($3,325).

The pair said they were due to arrive back in the UK on February 12 – before the new quarantine rules came into force – but Emirates airline cancelled two flights, which pushed back their arrival date.

It's horrible - and all because our flights were changed last minute

They had travelled to Dubai from Nairobi, Kenya, after visiting a sick relative, who later passed away.

"We left the UK for Nairobi on January 12 and had to transit through Dubai," Ms Shafi told The National from her hotel room.

"We were due to leave Nairobi on February 8 and spend five days in Dubai, departing for the UK on February 12.

"But we received an email from Emirates saying the flight home had been rescheduled to February 13, and when we'd boarded the plane from Nairobi to Dubai, I received another email saying the flight from Dubai to London had been cancelled.

“Because we were already on the plane, I had no choice but to wait to make alternative flight arrangements when we arrived in Dubai.”

They were offered seats on Emirates Flight EK 45 from Dubai to Frankfurt on Sunday, with an onward connection from Frankfurt to London, flying with Lufthansa.

Faiza Shafi and her mother Hawa Omar in hotel quarantine near Heathrow Airport, after arriving in the UK from Dubai, via Frankfurt in Germany. Courtesy: Faiza Shafi

But after checking in for their Emirates flight and reaching the gate,  Ms Shafi said they were unable to board the plane.

An Emirates spokeswoman told The National that Flight EK 45 from Dubai to Frankfurt on February 14 was delayed by technical issues.

She said the airline worked closely with "all relevant authorities to help get passengers home while ensuring travellers met the entry requirements of their destination".

Airline staff said there was a technical issue with the aircraft and Ms Shafi said about "50 to 60 passengers headed for the UK" were put on a later flight.

“Staff told us there was another flight departing for Frankfurt at 12.15pm, so we switched gates and waited to board,” she said.

“We were then told that we would miss our connecting flight to the UK and as such, were refused boarding on that flight too.

"We were in tears and so frustrated by this stage because my mum is in a wheelchair after hurting her leg from a fall," Ms Shafi said.

By 3pm they were informed they would be put up in a hotel in Dubai and rebooked on the flight to Frankfurt the next morning – by which time the UK's hotel quarantine scheme would have begun.

The mother and daughter eventually landed in the UK at 6pm local time on Monday.

“We tried to plead with border security staff that we didn’t have the funds to pay for hotel quarantine and were delayed because of Emirates airline but they couldn’t do anything for us," Ms Shafi said.

“They told us hotel quarantine was a government-enforced measure and the only thing they could do was set up a long-term payment plan to pay off the hotel charges.

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"I can't pay this amount, even in instalments. I have bills to pay and was left jobless by Covid-19," she said.

“We feel like we’re in a prison and it was through no fault of our own.”

Ms Shafi said the days at the hotel are a struggle. She said they are limited to three drinks a day and that the meals are "akin to plane food".

To stretch their legs, the mother and daughter have to schedule a walk in the hotel car park accompanied by security staff.

"There are so many people here, so many security personnel," she said.

"We even asked for an extra drink the other day and we were told no, because we had a set amount of food and drink each day. It's horrible, and all because our flights were changed last minute."

All British and Irish citizens and residents of the UK who arrive in England after being in a high-risk Covid-19 country now have to spend 10 days in quarantine in hotels.

The red list of 33 countries includes Portugal, the UAE, South Africa and Brazil.

The new regulations were brought in to stop Covid variants entering the country. It applies to arrivals who have been in one of the red-list destinations in the past 10 days.