In blow for NRIs stranded in India, DGCA bars private jet flights to UAE
The plight of non-resident Indians—both those working overseas and those stranded in India—has been in the news since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of Indian nationals who had been working overseas have been stranded in their homeland since outbound international flights were stopped on March 25.
Already facing a dire work situation, both NRIs stranded in the UAE and those intending to return to the emirates were disappointed last week when the Indian government stopped UAE-based airlines from operating charter flights. The move was in response to a UAE policy announcement that only its airlines—such as Emirates, Etihad and FlyDubai—could ferry stranded NRIs back to the UAE.
In yet another blow for NRIs stranded in India, UAE-based media outlets on Wednesday reported that the DGCA had revoked landing permits for UAE-based private jets that intended to take passengers from India to the emirates.
Gulf News reported "Permission(s) issued to UAE-based private jets scheduled to fly back UAE residents from India on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were revoked until further notice". Ahmed Shajeer, head of chartered division, Hadid International Services, told Gulf News, "DGCA also informed aviation companies that any UAE private jet that departs with a cancelled permit to India would be confiscated." Hadid International Services provides permits and navigation-related flight support services to various aviation companies providing private jet services, according to Gulf News.
Khaleej Times, another UAE-based news outlet, claimed, "Expats shell up to Dh15,000 (approximately Rs 3 lakh) for a seat on the jets".
Private jets have typically been used by wealthy passengers, but due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, even ordinary people have resorted to using them. “We have seen many customers struggling to catch a seat on private jets also. Many were afraid of losing their jobs. They took the risk of spending so much money to fly on private jets because they had got emails from their companies saying they had to report on a specific date or else they would be terminated. One customer said he had sold his children's gold jewellery to fly back," Shajeer told Gulf News. The permissions for July 11 have not been cancelled, Gulf News reported.
The cancelled flights included a flight from Hyderabad to Dubai that was to leave on Wednesday. The Times of India reported 52 Indians intending to return to Dubai were disappointed. "The NRIs had booked the chartered flight for Rs 85 lakh," The Times of India reported.
There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, though. Ahmed Al Banna, the UAE's ambassador to India, told a webinar on Wednesday that he hoped differences with Indian government on flight services would be resolved "very soon" and those NRIs with valid UAE work permits and visas would be allowed to return.