Vande Bharat Mission
New Delhi: The United Arab Emirates (UAE), home to thousands of expatriate Indians, has asked Air India Ltd. not to carry passengers to the Gulf nation from India on its repatriation flights under the government-backed Vande Bharat Mission unless specifically approved by the UAE government, the national carrier said in a statement on Wednesday.
“As per the Guidelines issued by the General Civil Aviation Authority of United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Safety Decision 2020-01 (Issue 17) Q&A Guidance For Foreign Operators, Issue Date: 23 June 2020 – transportation of passengers ( UAE Nationals and Non – UAE Nationals) to United Arab Emirates on the repatriation flights is not allowed,” Air India said in a statement.
All passengers, including Indian nationals, who hold valid residency permit or work permit, and have approvals from UAE’s Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) or Dubai’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) to travel to the country, will now also need specific approvals from UAE embassy in New Delhi and UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to travel from India to the Gulf national on VBM flights, the statement added.
Dubai, a popular tourist destination, will re-open for tourists and visitors from 7 July, several months after it closed its borders for outsiders on 25 March.
However, all arrivals will be required to produce a medical certificate showing a negative Covid-19 test result within the past four days – or undergo a mandatory PCR test at the Dubai airports.
The latest development comes days after the US accused the Indian government of engaging in discriminatory and restrictive practices by leaving out US carriers from the government-backed Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate stranded Indians from the US. It subsequently barred repatriation flights by Air India, from India to the US, without its prior permission.
Following this, the ministry of civil aviation said in a statement said that it is looking at the prospect of establishing individual bilateral bubbles, India-US, India-France, India-Germany, India-UK, where demand for travel has not diminished and final decisions are expected to be taken soon.
When asked, if the government is also considering establishing a bilateral bubble with UAE, similar to ones with US, France and UK, a civil aviation ministry spokesperson didn’t offer comments.
As things stand, the Indian government has resumed domestic air services in a limited manner from 25 May. However, it is yet to announce the resumption of international flights services. At present, only India allows international repatriation flights to bring back stranded citizens from abroad.
Air India plans to operate about 650 flights under the mission during July, the company’s chairman and managing director Rajiv Bansal said at a recent press conference.