India denies approval to UAE airlines chartered for repatriation
Flights had received approvals from the respective state governments and the Indian missions from the UAE. However, the final layer of approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation was getting denied. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Community organisations chartering UAE airlines to repatriate stranded Indians have reported cancellation of their flights after India’s Civil Aviation Ministry denied approvals, shattering the hopes of hundreds who intended to fly back home.

Speaking to Gulf News on Saturday, representatives of different community groups confirmed that the repatriation flights that they had chartered with UAE airlines stood cancelled since Friday.

They said the flights had received approvals from the respective state governments and the Indian missions from the UAE. However, the final layer of approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was getting denied.

Indian missions in the UAE told Gulf News that they had not received any official communication in this regard.

However, a section of the Indian media has reported that India stopped allowing UAE airlines to operate additional repatriation flights, after UAE put curbs on carrying passengers from India to the UAE on Indian airlines.

Though the reason is still not clear, the cancellation of some repatriation flights chartered with UAE airlines has upset the travel plans of hundreds of stranded Indians.

Office bearers of the Tamil community group Quaide Millath Forum told Gulf News that they had to arrange accommodation for dozens of stranded Indians. These passengers, who were scheduled to fly out on an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah to Madurai early on Saturday morning, had already reached Sharjah airport by Friday night.

“We had managed to prevent people from Dubai and Sharjah from coming to the airport as soon as we received information that the flight has been cancelled due to the approval issue. But more than 40 people had already come over very early from Abu Dhabi and Al Ain and we had to make arrangements for their accommodation,” said Abdul Rahman Rabbani of the group.

He said those who were stranded included pregnant women, small children, aged patients and jobless workers.

Accommodation issues

While some of them managed to stay with their relatives, many had to be given hotel accommodation on Friday night. However, those who were in hotels had to vacate them and look for other options on Saturday.

“Since there is an issue with entering Abu Dhabi, they cannot go back today. So they have gone to some relatives and friends,” said Rabbani.

Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) in Abu Dhabi said a flight it had chartered with Etihad Airways, which was supposed to fly 178 passengers and five infants from Abu Dhabi to Kozhikode in Kerala, was also denied permission.

“This was the 13th flight that we chartered with Etihad for our repatriation mission. We had never had any issue earlier. We used to get DGCA permission in no time after submitting the approvals from the Kerala government and the Indian Embassy here,” said Shukoor Ali Kallungal, president of KMCC Abu Dhabi.

He said the passengers had been informed about the cancellation of the Saturday flight.

“The issue is that many had already vacated their flats because they were to leave the country. Those people will now struggle for accommodation until they can fly again,” he said.

Zubair Siddiqui, who was to catch a flydubai chartered flight from Abu Dhabi to Hyderabad on Friday, said he was extremely disappointed when officials from Al Manar Islamic Centre informed him about the flight cancellation at the last minute.

Siddiqui, who worked with the procurement department of a landscaping company, had lost his job in April. He has been living with support from his friends and cousins since then.

Siddiqui said he had booked his ticket on the chartered flight after his long wait to get on to a repatriation flight under the Vande Bharat Mission had proved futile.

A desperate Siddiqui took to Twitter, seeking answers for the flight cancellation. “Today July 3rd our scheduled flight Flydubai Dxb to Hyd was cancelled adding to our misery what is @MoCA_GoI doing to us and why ? Why aren’t they permitting when all approvals are done? Please help,” he tweeted.

According to sources, about 70 per cent of the chartered services for Indian repatriation have been operated by UAE airlines.

In June, Gulf News had reported that more Indians stranded in the UAE were being flown home, thanks to the participation by UAE airlines in operating chartered services for repatriation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several companies and community groups have chartered repatriation flights from UAE airlines, with some of them operating the first international flights to some destinations in India, the report on June 17 said.

What airlines say

When contacted, flydubai confirmed that a Dubai to Madurai flight as well as a flight to Hyderabad had been cancelled on Friday.

“We are working with the relevant stakeholders,” the airline said in a statement to Gulf News.

Questions to Etihad, Emirates and Air Arabia about the flight cancellations were not answered immediately.

However, community organisations said chartered flights by UAE airlines that had received DGCA approval prior to Thursday were still being allowed to operate.

One such Emirates flight that operated from Dubai to Thiruvananathpuram on Saturday evening flew home P. Shajahan, an Indian worker who had missed a flight repatriating 427 people to the capital of Kerala, after he had fallen asleep in Terminal 3 on Thursday evening.