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Day after Dubai barred it for flying Covid patient, AI Express back today

Air India Express said the suspension has come on account of ‘erroneous acceptance’ of passengers on the flights by the airline’s ground handling agents.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi | Updated: September 19, 2020 8:07:32 am
Day after Dubai barred it for flying Covid patient, AI Express back todayA spokesperson of the national carrier confirmed the recent order, saying, "Hong Kong has prohibited Air India for two weeks -- September 20 to October 3."

A day after Dubai’s Civil Aviation Authority informed Air India Express that it would not be allowed to fly to its airports for 15 days from Friday after the airline carried a Covid-positive passenger from Jaipur on September 4, the low-cost carrier said it would resume its service to the emirate from Saturday.

Without revealing details of what led to the quick reversal, Air India Express tweeted: “Attention Passengers from/to Dubai! All Air India Express flights from/to Dubai will operate as per original schedule w.e.f tomorrow, September 19,2020.”

According to the Dubai authority, the passenger was allowed to board the flight to Dubai despite carrying a Covid-positive certificate issued by a diagnostic laboratory in Jaipur.

This is the second such instance involving AI Express and the aviation authority — a jurisdiction with which an air bubble is already established — after the airline had carried another passenger with a Covid-positive result from Delhi to Dubai on August 28.

The ground handling agencies deployed by Air India Express at Delhi and Jaipur are its sister concerns, Air India-SATS and Air India Air Transport Services Ltd, respectively.

Earlier, the airline had tweeted that it had “submitted a letter to Dubai Civil Aviation Authority expressing its profuse apologies and detailing various actions taken in association with the concerned ground handling agents to guard against such lapse in the future”.

Last month, flights to Hong Kong operated by Air India were suspended for a fortnight for “carrying too many passengers infected with Covid19”.

India currently has air bubble arrangements with 13 countries — the US, the UK, France, Germany, the UAE, Maldives, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Canada, Iraq, Nigeria, Japan and Qatar.

The Centre is negotiating for similar arrangements with other countries, such as Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Israel, Kenya, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

According to the UAE’s rules, passengers must have a test report certifying them Covid-negative to be accepted for any inbound flight.

In the suspension notice sent Thursday, the Dubai authority said: “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 relating to air travel to and from Airports in the Emirate of Dubai… Therefore, all operation of Air India Express to Dubai Airports is temporarily suspended…effective from 00:01 hrs/LT on Friday 18th September 2020 until 23:59 hrs/LT of 2nd October 2020”.

Air India Express said the suspension has come on account of “erroneous acceptance” of passengers on the two flights by the airline’s ground handling agents.

“The airline has reiterated the instructions to the handling agencies in India to strictly adhere to the regulation/SOP in relation to acceptance of passengers on the Airline’s flights. As an abundant precaution, the Airline has advised the handling agents to implement a three-tier checking mechanism to avoid any such lapse in the future,” it said.

Last month, speaking at The Indian Express Idea Exchange event, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri — in an apparent reference to the Hong Kong move — had said that the Centre was planning to ask outbound flyers from India on international flights to have a Covid test done prior to their flight.

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