THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as the state government has set up Covid molecular testing laboratories at all four airports in the state to provide rapid PCR test results four hours prior to departure by NRIs, a NOTAM (notice to airmen) issued by the UAE civil aviation authority informed the airlines of suspension of flight services to and from 14 countries including India till July 21. This has literally poured cold water on the vacation travel plans of expats.
Already, the expats have been affected badly following the suspension of regular flights between the UAE and India since late April in view of the Covid second wave here. Though one-way cargo flights to the UAE are allowed to bring passengers to India on return trips under the bilateral air bubble pact, the NRIs are reluctant to book tickets during the forthcoming festival season anticipating a third wave of Covid.
A senior officer of an airline told TNIE, “It would be an unusually dry season for the airlines during July-August period. Already, the passengers have not been booking tickets to India from the UAE, though one-way flights are available. Further, the industry is anticipating that the suspension of flights will continue for a while, especially since the UAE is getting ready for Dubai Expo in October.”
The Gulf country has been trying hard to keep the Covid cases under control and it fears that allowing flights from the worst-hit countries will torpedo the prospects of organising the expo. A senior officer with Air India said although one-way flights are operational from the UAE to India, the airlines have been operating clubbing one or two destinations in Kerala due to low passenger load factor. Normally, during Onam and Bakrid season, airline companies like Air India Express used to operate additional flight services to cater to the rising number of pax.
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