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Finding a return route to the UAE is no easy task for expat Indians who have been stuck in their home country for various reasons. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: Indian expats are having to shell out Dh4,000-Dh6,000 to find alternate travel arrangements to the UAE, even as direct flights from India remain suspended.

For these packages, travel agencies are arranging everything from flight tickets to 15-night hotel stays (quarantine period). “There are so many restrictions – when one airline says passengers can travel if they meet certain requirements, another carrier would state the exact opposite,” said a spokesperson for Forever Tourism. “It is very contradictory, and passengers are hesitant to travel to a third country.”

But those expats – who have concerns about their job situation if they remain stuck in India – are still searching for new routes to reach their final destination in the UAE as soon as possible. Several Indian travelers are opting to fly via Qatar, which recently re-opened its borders for fully vaccinated international travelers.

From Doha, travellers can take the final leg to the UAE on Emirates, Qatar Airways or flydubai. There is demand, but passengers want prior confirmation before making any payment, said the Forever Tourism spokesperson.

The Maldives, Serbia, Georgia, and Armenia are also top picks for Indians looking to re-enter UAE, but of late they have been shy to go forward with their travel plans.

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A lot of passengers are waiting to clarity on any changes to UAE’s travel regulations, said a spokesperson for Al Tayer Travel, adding that travelers are afraid that there might be last minute changes in flight regulations, leaving them stranded in these countries.

As per the latest updates from Etihad and UAE’s aviation regulator, flights from India to UAE will remain suspended until August 2. Some industry sources believe that authorities may not do a full resumption of commercial flights, but will instead loosen restrictions to allow ‘Silver Visa’ and business license holders.

Al Tayer Travel said India-Dubai flights scheduled from August 7 to August 12 were cancelled by the airlines. “The flight ban may go on till August 31,” said the agency’s spokesperson.

The outlook on the UAE-India aviation sector might be gloomy for now, but leisure travel seems to have surged quite a bit during the Eid break, particularly to quarantine-free destinations such as Greece, Italy, Georgia and Serbia. Flight tickets to Georgia that are generally priced between Dh1,200 and Dh1,300 spiked to Dh4,500, according to a travel agent.

Fare dip

The flight ban has brought down fares on the UAE-India route, with seats to New Delhi going for as low as Dh347 and Mumbai for Dh285. Kochi is on the higher side with tickets priced at Dh489.

From Doha, fares to New Delhi range from Dh350 to Dh1,205; a flight from Bahrain can cost as much as Dh953.

Destinations of choice

The air route between Dubai to Riyadh is the busiest with 78 flights per week, followed by New Delhi, at 58 flights per week. Bahrain (58 flights), Cairo (51 flights) and Beirut (49 flights) have also made it to Flightradar24’s Top 10 list.