Travel out of India to most destinations is still cut off as the country tries to get control over the second wave spread of the COVID-19. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: The UAE-India sector is still among the busiest air routes in the world - despite a ban on flights from India to UAE that has been there since April 24, according to data provider OAG. Placed 11th on OAG’s list of Top 20 country pairs, passenger seats on the route more than doubled to 955,064 in July compared to June.

Thousands of Indians who flew home from the UAE when travel restrictions were eased are stuck in India owing to new protocols having kicked in. India is UAE's largest source market and represents about a third of its passenger traffic. In 2019, there were about 3.42 million Indians living in UAE.

But it is still down nearly 48 per cent compared to levels seen in 2019. The Mexico-US sector remained the largest country pair, with carriers recording steady growth. With roughly 3.9 million seats, it is one of the five air routes where capacity now exceeds pre-COVID levels.

Demand from Russia for travel to and from Turkey and Ukraine has remained strong, with “significant” month-on-month capacity additions, noted OAG.

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Flight ban

Starting April 24, the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) suspended all inbound flights for national and international carriers from India. The ban was initially blamed on a surge in the ‘Delta’ variant of the COVID-19 virus. The date for resumption of travel has since been postponed several times.

In its most recent update, Emirates airline announced that it will be suspending taking on of passengers from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Dubai until August 7. The airline added that passengers who have connected through India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE. (UAE Nationals, holders of UAE Golden Visas and members of diplomatic missions who comply with updated COVID 19 protocols, are exempt and may be accepted for travel.)

Takes a hit

Dubai International airport had a passenger capacity of roughly 2.38 million seats in July, up nearly 32 per cent from June, but still half of the levels seen in 2019. “Dubai remains most affected of its peer group, with capacity still sitting at 50 per cent below July 2019,” said OAG. “For international hubs like Dubai, ongoing restrictions on international travel and peoples’ willingness to fly indirectly, or long-haul, means the pace of recovery is still not yet clear.”