Abu Dhabi: Etihad Airways is finalising plans to start a second relief flight from Phuket International Airport in Thailand in order to move as many stranded passengers as possible starting from today, Gulf News has learnt.

The airline has flown 1,000 British passengers out of a total of 1,600 so far from U-Tapao airport in Thailand to its home base of Abu Dhabi and onwards to London and Manchester.

A further 400 passengers travelled on Tuesday evening on the airline's fifth special flight to Abu Dhabi and connected on to other destinations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

This morning, a return flight from U-Tapao airport EY401 is expected to arrive to Abu Dhabi airport at 9.00am. A relief flight, EY408 took off from Abu Dhabi Airport at 2.00pm yesterday to U-Tapao Airport.

"We've flown extra Etihad staff from our Abu Dhabi headquarters to Thailand to help our full time team based there to try and help run the operation more smoothly and efficiently for travellers who understandably are keen to return home as soon as possible to see their loved ones," said Captain Richard Hill, the airline's executive vice-president, operations.

The airline suspended its double daily service to Suvarnabhumi airport following its closure on November 26. Services will be resumed when the airport reopens.

As for flights operating to Mumbai, the Etihad Airways official said: "We're still operating to Mumbai but the outbound flight has been delayed slightly to minimise the amount of time the aircraft spends on the ground in the Mumbai airport."

A spokesperson from Air India confirmed that no flights have been cancelled nor delayed to Mumbai. "Everything is peaceful and all our flights have been landing on time and safely even during the bombings," he added.

Mohammad Al Sawi, General Manager of Omeir Travel Agency LLC, told Gulf News that Bangkok has been removed as a potential destination for tourists from travel agents' calendars.

Tourist flows

Mumbai, however, does not have a heavy tourist traffic load in comparison to Bangkok. "Most people who want to visit India for tourist purposes go to Delhi or Goa and not so much to Mumbai. Passengers flying to Mumbai during this time are originally from Mumbai but residing and working in the UAE," he explained.

Al Sawi said many Emiratis were travelling to Bangkok during the holidays mainly for medical reasons.