Amid the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in India, many Indians affected by the ban on entry into the UAE that will come into effect from Saturday night had to dig deep into their pockets to buy last minute tickets at exorbitant rates.
The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) has announced on Thursday the suspension of all domestic flights for national and international carriers from India to the UAE from 11.59 pm on April 24.
Over the weekend, passengers caught up in the commotion of a few thousand tickets available from India were seen rushing for the COVID-19 test and flooding travel agencies and airline offices with visits and calls and book tickets.
Hundreds of people also opted for one-way tickets on some charter flights. Airline ticket rates from India to the UAE skyrocketed between Dh4,000-Dh6,000 (Rs 80,000-120,000) on Friday.
“Fares surged for all the airlines soon after the announcement. In some sectors, the ticket rates multiplied many times. Many people were unable to book tickets because of the high fares and the difficulties in getting COVID-19 test results,” Nazim A.K, travel manager at Al Fain Travel in Dubai told Gulf News.
Some airlines have managed to add additional flights to meet the high demand while travel agents have started planning charter flights to Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah from various Indian cities.
As per media reports, there was also a flood of passengers at Indian airports trying to get tickets to Dubai or Sharjah.
Crowds were also seen at COVID testing centers when attempts were made to board flights before the suspension was implemented.
“There has been a lot of rush in COVID-19 testing centers in India. Passengers who have received tickets are willing to pay extra in the short term. RTPCR test results usually take about 12-15 hours,” a volunteer told the Khaleej Times.
India on Saturday recorded 3,46,786 new COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day spike since the pandemic broke out last year.