New Delhi international airport. Travel agents in Dubai said they are still awaiting airline updates on flights from India to the UAE to make bookings. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Dubai: Travel agents in Dubai said they are still awaiting airline updates on flights from India to the UAE which were scheduled to reopen for fully vaccinated UAE residents today.

Afi Ahmed, managing director of Smart Travels, told Gulf News: “We have not been able to make any booking for the India-UAE flights as we are still waiting for the airlines to upload their schedules and fares in the system.”

He said, “We have been flooded with enquiries by anxious residents who are stranded in India and are waiting to fly back to get reunited with their families. A number of Indian airports have also prepared themselves for the PCR test requirements mandated for passengers flying to the UAE, but none of the passengers has been able to make any bookings yet.”

Rashida Zahid, senior operations manager, Musaffir.com, said, “We have not been able to make any bookings so far as none of the airlines have opened their inventories. An update on all the terms and conditions for fully vaccinated UAE residents to fly in from India is still awaited.”

A representative of another travel agency in Dubai also confirmed that they haven't done any bookings so far. “The India-UAE flights have not been updated. There are no flights showing in our system and we cannot issue any tickets as of now,” she noted.

On Saturday, the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management in Dubai announced updates to Dubai’s travel protocols for inbound passengers from South Africa, Nigeria and India, effective from June 23. It was announced that only passengers with a valid residence visa who have received two doses of a UAE-approved vaccine, are allowed to travel to Dubai from India.

A day later, Dubai Airports announced that it will reopen Dubai International's Terminal 1 and Concourse D on June 24. The facilities were closed on March 25, 2020 following the partial suspension of operations at DXB as part of its COVID-19 response.

The reopening of the facilities, it was announced, would enable the gradual return of 40-plus international carriers that were currently operating at Terminals 2 and 3 back to their home terminal at DXB. "Dubai Airports has advised passengers to confirm their terminal of departure and arrival with their airline prior to coming to the airport as the transition will be managed in several stages, with the plan for the relocation to be completed by the end of June," Dubai Airports had said.

Travel agents said they were receiving several calls from families of stranded UAE residents in India seeking clarity on their eligibility to fly, besides PCR test rules.

Mandatory requirements

Among the mandatory requirements announced for the India flights was the need for a negative test certificate from a PCR test taken 48 hours before departure; UAE nationals were exempted from this requirement. Only QR-coded negative PCR test certificates were accepted, it was announced.

The new protocol also said passengers from India were required to undergo a rapid PCR test four hours prior to departure to Dubai. They also had to undergo another PCR test on arrival in Dubai. In addition, following arrival, passengers from India had to undergo institutional quarantine until they receive their PCR test result, which is expected within 24 hours. UAE citizens and diplomats were exempted from institutional quarantine.

Travel agents, however, said stranded UAE residents and their families were looking for more details.  “People want to know if GDRFA approval is needed for entry? What about quarantine requirements? Can residents from other emirates proceed home on arrival? What about those whose visas had recently expired? What is the criteria for children who were not earlier eligible to take vaccines? Which are the approved vaccines? What if someone had taken only one vaccine?" Ahmed said.

Flights from Nigeria, South Africa

On Monday, Dubai’s Emirates airline said passenger flights to and from Nigeria were suspended with effect from June 21 until further notice. Customers travelling to and from Lagos and Abuja will not be accepted for travel, and those who have been to - or connected through - Nigeria in the last 14 days are not permitted to board from any other point to the UAE, it said.

Emirates also said that flights from South Africa will remain suspended until July 6, in line with government directives that restrict the entry of travellers originating from South Africa, into the UAE.