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Afi Ahmed takes a selfie with other passengers who flew in to Dubai from Kochi on a business jet on Saturday. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Thirteen Indian expatriates from the UAE stuck back home flew in to Dubai on a VIP private jet on Saturday after coughing up a whopping Dh225,000 to tide over the travel crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The seven male and six female passengers boarded the flight from Kochi in Kerala, where most of them were stranded for nearly four months following the suspension of flights due to the pandemic. Two of the passengers took the initiative to charter a Global 6000, the largest business jet, from a Dubai-based aviation company.

They shared Dh75,000 between them and the other 11 passengers paid the remaining amount for the pricey journey as no scheduled flights are operating from India to the UAE.

13 Indian expats charter VIP jet for Dh225,000 to return from Kerala to Dubai Supplied

Speaking to Gulf News, the stranded residents said they decided to pay through their nose to return to their “second homeland” as they had painful experiences after getting separated indefinitely from their families and suffering huge issues in their businesses.

Though they could afford to pay for their journey, they said thousands of UAE residents stuck back in India are unable to do so and appealed to both the governments to work together and help them also return to the UAE.

How it happened

The husband of a female passenger, who helped charter the jet, said the couple opted for the business jet after hearing that stranded Indians had started flying back on private jets.

“Expats looking for private charter services from Kerala found each other through a Facebook group and finally this happened,” he said, requesting not to be named.

“It offered more comfort and safety compared to flying on larger planes and taking a long route through different airports.”

Afi Ahmed, owner of Smart Travel, who flew back on the jet, said many expats have been desperate to return to the UAE as several people had lost their jobs, suffered big losses in businesses and even lost their assets due to the evolving situations during the pandemic.

“Most of us who flew on the VIP jet are businessmen or family members of entrepreneurs or those with top executive posts. One of us, who came from Tamil Nadu to catch this flight, said he had to cough up the huge amount for the ticket just to ensure he reached back in time to retain his job with a bank.”

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Abdul Mujeeb Image Credit: Supplied

Abdul Mujeeb, an entrepreneur, said he went through painful experiences as he was away from his wife and two small children and his employees could not manage the business.

He said reaching back to Dubai became the most pressing need as the flight suspension had been going on indefinitely.

“We approached many authorities and knocked on many doors, but it was going on indefinitely. I decided to fly on the jet as any further delay in my return would have caused irreparable damages.”

Help other stranded residents to return

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Cianna Joseph Image Credit: Supplied

Cianna Joseph, a student who was stranded in Chennai, said she was unfortunate that she could not get on to her flight to reach her family in Dubai on the evening of the day flights were suspended in India.

“Although I managed to catch this flight, there are many people who are not able to return. So, I would like to request to open the borders soon because there are a lot of people who really need to move back into their lives.

“It is a really stressful time for everybody and this is not something that anyone would want to go through for an extended period of time.”

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Roymon Joy Image Credit: Supplied

Echoing the same, another passenger, Roymon Joy, said: “We could afford to charter a private jet. But the normal, working people are in a different situation.

“We have seen families missing their beloved in India. A lot of people lost their jobs because they were unable to join their workplaces and a lot of businesses had to close. We wish the government will see their problems and start the flight operations so that they can be reunited with their families.”

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An interior view of the business jet, said to be the largest, on which 13 Indian expats flew in from Kochi to Dubai on Saturday.

The passengers said the luxurious journey was unforgettable on many counts and it helped them finally heave a sigh of relief after reaching back to the UAE.