Dubai: The dreams to fly home during COVID-19 are fulfilled free of cost for 590 stranded Indians in the UAE, thanks to the free charter flights arranged by a TV channel under the leadership of its chairman and Malayalam superstar Mammootty.
Kairali TV, the chairman of which is Mammootty, flew home 415 stranded expats to Kerala on the first two free flights it organised on June 21 and 23, said E.M. Ashraf, the channel’s Middle East director for news and programmes.
“A third flight repatriated another 175 needy persons on Monday night from Dubai to Kochi,” he told Gulf News.
He said the third flight was sponsored by Technos, a group of Malayli expatriates in the UAE who studied at various engineering colleges in Kerala.
The channel, which had earlier promised to fly four free charter flights from the UAE with support from various sponsors, has decided to allot the fourth one to Qatar after seeing the demand over there.
“We continue to sponsor individual tickets of needy passengers on Vande Bharat repatriation flights from the Gulf countries,” Ashraf added.
The channel had earlier announced that it would sponsor 1000 repatriation flight tickets under its initiative titled ‘Kaikorthu Kairali.’
Islamic group flies 184 for free
Jamia Markaz, an Islamic organisation based in Kerala said it also organised a free charter flights for 184 passengers from Ras Al Khaimah to Kozhikode on Monday.
Markaz Alumni group in the UAE had already facilitated 10 charter flights to various cities in Kerala and to Delhi. It offered 56 free tickets to distressed expats on those flights, said Muneer Mohiyadeen, media and communications manager of Markaz UAE.
He said the group facilitated the repatriation of some expats from Tamil Nadu as well due to few flights to the neighbouring state.
360 free tickets from RAK Indian Association
Meanwhile, Indian Association Ras Al Khaimah said it facilitated chartering 38 flights in total along with another group, Incas, till Monday.
More than 5000 Indian expats travelled to various destinations in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi on these charter flights and over 360 tickets were given free for to the needy, stated S. A. Saleem, president of the association.
Riyas Kattil, a volunteer with the association, said the association provided tickets at Dh900 for other distressed people while Dh1300 was charged from those who could afford.
Cheaper tickets by Indian Association Sharjah
The Indian Association Sharjah facilitated chartering of five flights till to all four International airports in Kerala at an economic fare of Dh950, said E.P. Johnson, president of the association.
“Fifteen more charter flights to Kerala planned in the coming weeks are under process. We are facilitating flights to Andhra, Telangana, Delhi and UP also.”
The Indian Association Ajman facilitated eight charter flights to various destinations in Kerala to fly home stranded compatriots, said its general secretary Roop Sidhu. However, the fare was Dh1100.
“There is one flight to Delhi and another flight scheduled to Mangalore this week. We are also in the process of arranging few more charter flights to Amritsar, Delhi, Lucknow and Hyderabad,” he said.
100 free tickets by AKCAF Volunteers
AKCAF Volunteers, a volunteers’ group of college alumni members from Kerala, sponsored 100 tickets to distressed passengers flying on various charter flights organised by the group, said its senior volunteer Paul T. Joseph.
“We facilitated chartering of two Emirates flights on Saturday. A total 712 people were flown home, 356 each to Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, with tickets priced at Dh1100.”
“We had chartered two flights to Kannur earlier for Dh995. On Monday, 189 passengers were flown to Thiruvananthapuram at Dh900 fare and 356 more are scheduled to fly to Kochi at Dh1100 on Tuesday. We gave PPE kits and face shields to all passengers,” he added.
Various other organisations of Keralite expats have also facilitated charter flights for repatriating Malayalis in the UAE.
Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) Women’s Wing facilitated a charter flight for 168 people from Dubai to Kannur on Saturday.
Naziya Shabeer of KMCC Women’s Wing said the female volunteers also gave away free tickets to many distressed Indians flying home on various other flights also. The team has also been active in providing food kits and medicines to families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.