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Ajith Pullanikottil Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Persistence pays. This is what Indian expat Ajith Pullanikottil, 43, who was waiting to fly home after his mother died, felt after he received the 177th boarding pass — the “last” ticket to the first repatriation flight of Air India Express from Dubai to Kozhikode on Wednesday.

For a couple of hours, Ajith, an IT engineer by profession, was sitting beside a row of trolleys used by passengers before him. He called a representative from the Indian Consulate in Dubai several times to check if he can get on the first repatriation flight.

“I arrived before 12 noon. An official from the consulate told me I was put on the waiting list,” Ajith told Gulf News.

“I really hope to get on this flight. My mother passed away two days ago and my mind is still in a daze,” said the grieving man, the only son who is required to perform the last rituals of his mother.

Several residents, including some workers, who were put on waiting list, were also outside Gate 2 at Dubai International Airport (DXB) Terminal 2. Airport security was tight. Only passengers with confirmed tickets were allowed to enter the terminal.

Ajith was carrying only a duffle bag with clothes good for only a couple of weeks and a laptop. Wearing a white shirt, blue jeans, a face mask and a pair of gloves, he had been waiting at the airport for around three hours before a staff called his name.

When Gulf News got hold of him an hour before the boarding time, he happily showed his boarding pass. He got the last slot as another unlucky passenger was offloaded due to his pending immigration fines.

Ajith was hugely relieved as he could now go to his native place in Palakkad district, Kerala, India.

“Destiny is with me in this sad time,” he told Gulf News.

Consulate officials said Ajith may be given a special consideration not to undergo the required quarantine procedures so he can do the rituals for his mother.

Hard luck for offloaded passenger

Meanwhile, it was tough luck for Rasheed M, a waiter at a Dubai restaurant. His name was on the original list of 177 passengers cleared to fly but upon checking at the Immigration, his record showed he had overstaying fines.

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Rasheed M

His visa had expired in December 2019. Rasheed was under the impression that he would be allowed to fly during the COVID-19 repatriation time as he is a worker in distress.

However, it was only when he reached the immigration counter that it became clear to him that only those people whose visas got cancelled from March 1 were eligible for leaving the country without fines.

His dream to fly home dashed, a heartbroken Rasheed was seen calling his company’s PRO to seek help and finally returned to his accommodation with the hope to catch the next flight by paying the fines.

While tweeting about the departure of the flight, the second from the UAE on Thursday, the Indian Consulate in Dubai said: “Last passenger Ajith was added to attend final rites of his mother after one passenger dropped out due to immigration issue.”