Hours after suspending operations of Air India Express flights to Dubai for flying in covid-19 positive passengers, aviation authorities in the Gulf emirate revoked the suspension, allowing the Indian government-owned airline to resume flights. Earlier on Friday, the Dubai Civil Aviation authority had suspended these flights for a fortnight from 18 September to 2 October, after the Indian carrier was found to have flown covid-19 infected passengers to Dubai.
“The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority has revoked the suspension and operations of the airline will be allowed to operate normally from tomorrow (19 September),” a senior Air India Express official said on condition of anonymity.
“It was a genuine mistake by the airline, and ground handling agencies and the authorities overreacted by dishing out a suspension order. Things were sorted out after the airline got in touch and explained its position,” the official said, adding that Dubai Civil Aviation Authority informed Air India Express officials on Friday evening that it can carry out normal operations from Saturday.
However, there was no official word from the Dubai authorities till press time on revoking the suspension.
The development comes a day before the Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off in Dubai. While the games will be initially played in empty stadiums, the authorities are expected to allow fans to attend in the later stages of the tournament. A ban on the airline could have impacted Indian fans hoping to attend the IPL, which is being held away from home this year because of the pandemic.
The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority had informed the Indian no-frills airline of the temporary ban in a communication addressed to its regional manager for the Gulf, Middle East and Africa on Thursday.
“Boarding a passenger with covid-19 positive test result for the second time is contrary to and is in violation of the laid-down procedures and/or protocols related to air travel to and from airports in the Emirate of Dubai, during the coronavirus pandemic,” the communication from Dubai’s aviation regulator said.
“In addition to the suspension of operation, you will be further notified to pay all the expenditure incurred by the respective authorities for medical services and/or quarantine of any passenger(s) and the other passengers in the flight, and also any other expenditure connected thereto,” it added. Air India Express is operating flights to Dubai under a special arrangement with the UAE government.
The development comes a month after one of the airline’s Boeing 737 jetliners carrying 191 people from Dubai skidded off a wet runway while landing at Kozhikode in Kerala, killing 17 people, including the two pilots, and critically injuring several more.
The Kochi-based airline, a subsidiary of Air India Ltd, has also been asked to submit a detailed corrective action plan or implementation procedure to prevent such incidents for resumption of its flights to Dubai. Mint has reviewed a copy of the communication.
The notice was issued after the airline’s ground handling agents at Delhi and Jaipur accepted that one covid-positive passenger each flew on Air India Express flights to Dubai on 28 August and 4 September, respectively, Air India Express said in a statement.
“As per information gathered, passengers who were seated in close proximity to the covid-positive passenger on each flight had undergone covid test/quarantined as determined by the Dubai health authority,” the airline said.