Flights to UAE: Travel agents in India warn of scams

The stranded residents are having to deal with scams as diverse as a fake UAE Embassy website in India that issued bogus travel permits for a fee.

UAE residents stranded in south Asian countries from where passenger entry is currently suspended have a new problem to deal with: Scams promising them a return to the emirates.

The stranded residents are having to deal with scams as diverse as a fake UAE Embassy website in India that issued bogus travel permits for a fee; alleged false positive Covid-19 results; and touts that bundle over eight people in a hotel room to make a quick buck.

Passenger entry between the UAE and the Indian subcontinent continues to remain suspended until further notice.

Touts and fraudsters have been having a field day since the restrictions were announced for flights from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Stranded UAE residents have the expensive and time-consuming option of travelling back to the country via other destinations. They are allowed to travel back if they spend 14 days in another country from where there are no travel restrictions.

However, several people that Khaleej Times spoke recounted a harrowing tale.

Travel via Maldives

D.R. a Delhi-based travel agent, echoed the harried travellers’ horrid travel tales.

“I’ve stopped accepting these bookings for stranded UAE passengers from India via these Green List countries such as the Maldives. I had recently made travel arrangements for two UAE expat families — of four each — to travel to Dubai via Male. However, though the travel arrangements were foolproof, trouble started a few days after the families landed from Delhi and Mumbai, respectively.

“They were slated to undergo PCR tests after the mandatory 14-day quarantine period to travel back to Dubai. One each of the both the family members were ‘reported’ Covid-19 positive, which raised the travellers’ suspicion.

“Then, they decided to uncover the truth and took the tests on their own from another healthcare facility in Male, where, they, expectedly, got negative results,” he said.

Though it costs around Dh6,500 per person with travel and room and board expenses thrown in the Maldives, this is only a basic package. A traveller needs to pay at least upwards of Dh11,000 for a decent room, he said.

“Many travellers are reportedly anxious to board the first flight available and are not taking into consideration the nitty-gritty of the trip, which, unfortunately, they are figuring out after landing in these destinations and to their own peril,” D.R. added.

Coming to UAE via Qatar

Some travellers have reported problems in travelling via Qatar as well.

Rules stipulate that a UAE resident, who is intending to travel to Dubai via Doha, Qatar, must fulfil these norms: They must have been administered both doses of a Covid-19 jab; have Dh7,500; and show a hotel booking of at least 10 days, which can be further extended in line with the quarantine norms.

However, the touts and deceitful travel agents are going for the kill, as they are throwing more than eight people in a dingy room amid the oppressive summer heat.

“I found that these travellers couldn’t maintain any kind of social distancing. Many are likely to contract the contagion because of a brazen disregard for precautionary norms as several agents are guided by greed,” D.R. added.

Are the risks worth it?

However, anxious and stranded South Asians in their respective home countries are willing to take the risk.

K.K, a bank employee, who has been staying in Bengaluru since early April to take care of her ailing father, said it’s time to return to keep the home going.

“My husband, who has a hectic schedule, is taking care of our toddler son. It’s tough on him. I need to return at all costs over the next few days,” she said.

Joydeep Sengupta

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