x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Fresh hope for fear-of-flying boy Joe

The 11-year-old has been stranded in the UAE for more than a month after developing a chronic aversion to flying.

DUBAI // Officials from the car-maker Volkswagen have contacted the father of fear-of-flying schoolboy Joe Thompson to see if they can help him return home by providing cars and drivers.

Joe, 11, has been stranded in the UAE for more than a month after developing a chronic aversion to flying. His family are returning to the UK after living in Al Ain for several years. His mother Pauline and sister Chloé, 16, are already back home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, but he has had to remain behind with his father, Tony.

Mr Thompson wants to travel with Joe through Saudi Arabia to Jordan, from where they would be able to continue making their way home overland or by sea. Sources at Volkswagen Middle East said they were keen to help the family, but stressed that the idea was at a very early stage.

"It's an initial idea really, there are so many logistics you have to sort out and so many questions we have to ask and figure out," said a VW source. "We've talked to Mr Thompson, he's interested in it and we're interested. It's a great idea and we're going to do everything we can to help, but we don't know how we're going to do it yet."

Mr Thompson said the provision of vehicles and drivers would be perfect as he had sold his car before the planned move home.

The Thompsons had hoped to travel across the kingdom to Jeddah to board a merchant ship leaving for the UK last Monday, but the Saudi Embassy in Abu Dhabi declined to issue visas.

The embassy indicated, however, that it would consider providing transit visas that would enable them to travel overland to Jordan. The distance between the Jordanian capital, Amman, and Abu Dhabi is just under 2,000km as the crow flies.

Mr Thompson has since heard from the Saudi Embassy in London, which asked him to send details of his situation and supporting documents to an aide of the ambassador, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz.

"I've heard back from the PA of the Saudi ambassador in London," added Mr Thompson. "He's back in the kingdom and she's sent him all the information he needs, including VW's approach. The PA said he wanted to help."