An Air India Express Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Air India Express tickets went on sale from June 28 for those who were registered at the Indian missions to travel back to India under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM), a Tweet from the Indian Embassy’s official Twitter handle said on Sunday.

The direct ticket sales were available from 7pm (UAE time) on June 28 for Air India Express (AIE) flights operating from July 3 to July 14 under Phase 4 of VBM.

However, it was not detailed how much a discounted ticket would cost.

Any Indian national who has registered on the website of the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi or Consulate General of India in Dubai, fulfils the required entry conditions and desires to be repatriated by VBM fights from the UAE to India (tentative schedule attached), is eligible.

Interested travellers can now also get their flight tickets issued on a first-come-first-served basis from the website: www.airindiaexpress.in

They can also book tickets from Air India Express booking offices in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Ajman (managed by their general sales agent, Arabian Travel Agency) and authorised AIE agents in the UAE.

The Indian Consulate will continue to help the most pressing cases, while chartered flights for repatriation will also continue, the Consulate General of India tweeted on Sunday.

The consulate's tweet clarified that the direct booking service will be a new option for stranded Indians seeking repatriation from the UAE. As Gulf News reported on June 25, several stranded Indians, who have been desperately waiting for their turn to fly home, had demanded the Indian government to either increase the number of VBM flights or resume commercial services.

The government announced 59 VBM flights in the fourth phase of VBM from the UAE and direct booking options are now expected to address the concerns of many waiting to be repatriated.

Ambassador: 75 per cent sale, 25 per cent emergency cases  

Speaking to Gulf News on Sunday evening, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, Pavan Kapoor, said the missions would allow the airline to keep 75 per cent of seats for sale and 25 per cent for people with emergencies, that will be routed through the missions.

“Three-fourths of the seats would be open for sale. The rest will be through the list we [missions] give,” he said.

The missions would continue to allot 100 per cent of tickets through them till July 2, he clarified.

VBM fares to remain unchanged

The Indian ambassador said the fares for VBM flights, that are available for direct booking, would remain the same as what was already being charged.

“Prices [for those booking the tickets directly from the airline] will be the same as the fares through the embassy or the consulate.”

Apart from giving people an opportunity to opt for their preferred journey dates, the direct booking system will also give them time to prepare for the journey.

Earlier, when missions finalised the list of passengers, many used to get the call just one or two days prior to their flights and missions even had the experience of some people refusing to fly on such short notice since they needed time for preparations, the ambassador observed.

“Now, those who want to go can plan and book the tickets as per their convenience and those with compelling cases can still come to us,” he explained.

Kapoor said it had been noticed that a large number of people with emergencies had already flown home either on VBM flights or on chartered flights organised by community groups and companies.

Not meant for those from India

The ambassador clarified that direct booking was open only for those wanting to be repatriated from the UAE to India, and not for residents of UAE who are currently stranded back home in India. “We are separately working on another system to help them return. We have given a proposal to the UAE and are waiting for them to respond. I can assure you that we are very keen to get the Indian residents back here soon,” he added.

The UAE had earlier asked Air-India not to fly in UAE residents stuck in India on VBM flights.