Emirates allows Indian passengers to book global travel tickets via Dubai despite air bubble rules

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Emirates has started taking bookings from India for destinations beyond Dubai in their bubble flights, signalling the resumption of international travel despite rules that limit travel to and from the UAE.

“Passengers can travel to all destinations on EK network with immediate connections on a through fare ticket,” a memo from the airline to travel services companies said, according to a senior executive of a Cochin-based travel and tourism services company.

“No transit visa required. But PCR test is mandatory. Passengers holding OCI Cards as well Indian passport holders are eligible to travel on Emirates flights,” the memo from Emirates said.

The move has taken India’s civil aviation authorities by surprise as travel is only allowed to and from the UAE on the ‘bubble’ flights.

A check on Emirate’s website for a booking from Mumbai to London’s Heathrow for November 6 went through without any problem, with different flights and fares showing up.

Executives at travel service firms said Emirates is allowing bookings for transit travel through Dubai strictly for “immediate, next available connection” flights only.

“DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) has not allowed any booking beyond UAE either for UAE carriers or for Indian carriers,” the joint secretary in India’s ministry of civil aviation (MOCA) who deals with this issue, told Arabian Business, when asked about whether India has taken such a decision.

When asked about Emirates’ allowing such bookings, the MOCA joint secretary said: “We will request DGCA to look into this.”

Arabian Business has contacted Emirates for a comment on the issue, and the story will be updated when we receive the responses.

Under the ‘air bubble’ arrangement, India allows travel between the two countries only.

Airlines industry sources said the UAE flagship carrier has been making representations to the Indian civil aviation authorities for allowing bookings for such transit travels from Dubai for some time now.

These sources also indicated that India and UAE authorities have been holding discussions on this issue.

None of the Indian airlines are currently allowing bookings on their UAE flights for destinations beyond the emirate.

“We are allowing bookings only for point to point travel on our flights to cities in the UAE,” a senior executive with Air India Express told Arabian Business.

Air India Express operates the maximum number of flights under the ‘bubble’ arrangement to Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

Air India and private Indian carriers such as IndiGo, Vistara, SpiceJet and GoAir also operate ‘bubble’ flights to various destinations in the UAE.

India currently has entered into an ‘air bubble’ arrangement with a total of 16 countries including the US, the UK, Canada and Germany, besides the UAE.

India has suspended scheduled international flight services since 23 March this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.