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UAE Airlines Under Scanner For Air Bubble Violations


The civil aviation ministry has found breaches of the air bubble agreement established between India and the United Arab Emirates by some UAE airlines carrying unauthorized transit passengers from India.

A transportation bubble or air bubble arrangement is a temporary arrangement between two countries intended to restart commercial passenger services when scheduled international flights are suspended as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are reciprocal in nature, meaning that airlines in both countries enjoy similar benefits and are subject to similar restrictions.

Under the agreement, airlines can only transport passengers between the two countries and not beyond. India has established air bubble agreements with several countries after the Covid-19 pandemic that led to the suspension of international flights.

In a letter to the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) earlier this month, the civil aviation ministry wrote: “We are receiving reports of violations of the provisions of the air bubble agreement by carriers of UAE when carrying unauthorized transit passengers ”.

HT has seen a copy of the letter, which reads: “We further request that you inform the UAE carriers to ensure that the revised provisions of the air bubble agreement are followed in their true spirit.”

This was confirmed by Arun Kumar, general director of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGCA). “We have acted on such input and the airlines involved have been warned and reprimanded,” Kumar said.

A second official who is aware of the development said the motive for violating agreements to transport transit passengers beyond the UAE to more distant destinations may be to make a profit.

“UAE carriers have been transporting hundreds of passengers every day from India, since the air bubble agreement between the two countries was established in July this year,” making the routes from Dubai to Delhi and Mumbai are among the busiest in the world amid the pandemic. the official said.

HT sent a detailed email to the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) seeking their response. Authorities did not respond until Monday night.

Point number 21, rule A, on the website of the civil aviation ministry mentions that according to the air bubble agreement, Indian and UAE airlines operating flights between the two countries can carry UAE citizens and residents of the UAE approved by the Immigration Authority and Checkpoints.

A senior civil aviation ministry official, who requested anonymity, said that under an air bubble arrangement, any airline that operates between two countries can only carry passengers from one point to another.

“No airline can accept passengers in transit. For example, if an airline operates from India to the United Arab Emirates, it cannot accept on board a passenger who is not destined for the United Arab Emirates (passengers with a visa for any country other than the United Arab Emirates). However, if a passenger goes to the UAE and then books another flight to travel further afield, the airline is not responsible, ”said the official.

Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the epidemiology department at the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), said the importance of implementing such a rule is to ensure that these passengers do not move beyond point-to-point travel.

“These restrictions are imposed so that these passengers can be easily tracked and the government can control them if necessary. In any case it is observed that some of them are carriers of the infection, the appropriate actions can be taken only if they are following the rules ”, said Kant.

Aviation expert Mark D Martin said that violation was bound to happen. “The arrangement of the air bubbles has many gaps. Airlines will always want to focus on revenue. The airlines will offer whatever the consumer wants and even if the transit means two days in a hotel in Dubai and then a trip, it is still circumventing the law, “he said.

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