190122 air india express
Air India Express Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: All Air India Express flights to and from Dubai will operate as per original schedule with effect from September 19, the airline announced.

The airline made the announcement on its Facebook page hours after its Dubai flights were rescheduled to Sharjah following a 15-day suspension of its Dubai operations ordered by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

See also

Five flights that were supposed to operate from Dubai International Airport were rescheduled to Sharjah International Airport on Friday following the 15-day suspension of the airline’s Dubai operations, the airline confirmed to Gulf News.

The temporary suspension of operations from September 18 by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority came after the airline’s ground handling agents allowed two passengers with COVID-19 positive test results to board flights to Dubai—one each on two different dates from Delhi and Jaipur.

The flights that were rescheduled to Sharjah were to Kozhikode (Calicut), Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi, Mumbai and Kannur, the airline said.

While the Calicut flight was rescheduled from 10:30am to 1.15pm, the Kannur flight was postponed from 7.55pm to 11.55pm. There was no change in the time slots of the other three flights scheduled to depart at 2.30pm, 4.30pm, 6.30pm.

“Both Calicut and Thiruvananthapuram flights already arrived in and departed from Sharjah and they have landed in the respective destinations. More than 310 passengers flew on these flights,” an official said by 5pm on Friday.

Barring one or two, most of the passengers flew on the rescheduled flights both ways, he said.

“In order to mitigate the inconvenience that may be caused to passengers booked to fly to Dubai, the airline has introduced additional flights to Sharjah to accommodate the affected passengers,” the airline said in a media statement.

Another official explained that passengers who were originally booked to fly to Dubai were being accommodated on the additional flights to Sharjah.

The affected passengers were also being given the option to re-book to a future date, the airline said.

The airline opened its offices in Dubai and Sharjah and also deputed a team at the Dubai International Airport to facilitate the travel of the affected passengers, officials said.

The airline earlier in the day said it had reiterated the instructions to the handling agencies in India to strictly adhere to the regulations and SOP in relation to acceptance of passengers on its flights.

Corrective and punitive measures

“As abundant precaution, the airline has advised the handling agents to implement a three-tier checking mechanism to avoid any such lapse in the future,” it had stated.

Based on the airline’s communication to them, the ground handling agencies concerned have taken appropriate punitive action against their employees who have been held accountable for the lapse at Delhi and Jaipur airports.

Prior to the receipt of the DCAA notice, the airline had submitted a letter to the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority expressing its profuse apologies and detailing the various actions taken by the airline in association with the ground handling agents concerned to guard against such lapse in the future, the statement added.

A senior official conveyed the airline’s apologies for the inconveniences caused to the passengers and also its gratitude for the support from the local authorities in rescheduling the flights to minimise it.

Another resident, Safeer Chombakkada, said he was relieved to hear that the airline is resuming Dubai operations. “Nine members of my family are scheduled to return from Kerala on September 21. They include my wife and our newborn son,” said the new father.

He said his wife had gone home for the delivery of their first baby during the COVID-19 pandemic. “My son was born on June 1. I haven’t seen him as I couldn’t fly home. I am super excited to receive him in Dubai. I am glad there won’t be any change in the schedule of the flight now.”

Concerns, delays, relief

Meanwhile, some passengers who spoke to Gulf News expressed concerns and relief following the suspension and rescheduling of the flights.

Ajeesh R, a building maintenance worker in Dubai, who was leaving the country after losing his job, said he was concerned in the morning after seeing news reports about the suspension of the flights.

“I had missed seeing the email from the airline,” said Ajeesh who was booked on the Kannur flight from Dubai.

“I called them many times in the morning, but couldn’t get through. That is when I was worried if I would be able to leave today itself as I am going after cancelling my visa.

However, Ajeesh said he saw the email later and also received an SMS about the rescheduling of the flight by 10am. “I was relieved after that. I live in Sharjah and hence it is okay to fly from Sharjah.”

Meanwhile, Dubai resident Ligish Karumbayil said his wife Jeeshma and two young children returning from Kannur to Dubai would now have to travel four hours later and take a longer route after midnight from Sharjah International Airport to their flat in Dubai Production City.

Though he was also relieved that they would be able to reach the UAE on the same day, he said he was worried if his family coming over on visit visa would have to undergo home quarantine since the flight was rescheduled to Sharjah.

A travel agent said some other passengers from India were also confused about the changes in rules related to COVID-19 in both the emirates.