Expat repatriation flights to UAE now available

Published:  13 May at 6 PM
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For expats working overseas, one of the worst aspects of the pandemic is being unable to return to your present country of residence due to lockdowns.

It’ll never be known exactly how many expat professionals on business trips became the modern equivalent of stateless persons, simply due to the fact they were in the wrong place when lockdowns were declared. For those stranded overseas, adhering to requirements such as two-week quarantines, compulsory health insurance covering covid19 treatment when no such insurance is available and paying a small fortune for a repatriation flight is difficult if not impossible.

One of the earliest regions to implement the sealing off of all ports of entry was the Emirates, effectively closed down without any warning to all but its nationals on March 19. Subsequently, the only returning flights were those arranged and authorised by embassies and governments, leaving a large number of expat residents at all levels stranded overseas. The first bookable repatriation flight took place five days ago but, for those desperate to get on with their lives, it’s nowhere near as simple as booking a regular flight.

To get a seat on a repatriation flight, residents must first apply for official permission to return by contacting the Twajudi service and entering personal details such as profession, exact location and ID number. Some are finding registering online is tricky, involving error messages or inability to complete the application. Once it’s complete, there’s a wait for approval after which a code and a letter from the UAE Ministry of Foreign affairs is sent. Importantly, all visas now expired have now been extended to the end of December, and proof of residency is also required. Feedback from applicants is sketchy, with some already having been approved and others still in limbo after several weeks.

It seems key workers such as healthcare staff, teachers and airline employees are being prioritised, as are university students at present separated from their families. Even so, a few parents are complaining their children haven’t yet received permission to come home. For those with approval, Etihad agents can use the code supplied to book repatriation flights, and Emirates is allowing returnees to book online but is insisting all passengers must show their approval letters at check-in.

Right now, flights from the UK and Germany are via Emirates, with Etihad operating 12 routes covering most of Europe as well as New York, Chicago and a selection of Asian cities including Tokyo, Singapore, Manila and Kuala Lumpur.
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