Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 28 May 2020

Coronavirus: Stranded Dubai tourists start making their way home to loved ones

Holidaymakers Lina and Ahlam Barhomi were stuck in the city after their return flights were cancelled last week

Lina (right) and Ahlam Barhomi say they are looking forward to seeing family back home in France and the UK. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Lina (right) and Ahlam Barhomi say they are looking forward to seeing family back home in France and the UK. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Sisters Lina and Ahlam Barhomi breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday as they joined hundreds of stranded tourists boarding repatriation flights out of Dubai.

With face masks on and four pieces of luggage between them, the beaming pair were delighted to be heading home as they arrived at Dubai International Airport.

Clutching their e-tickets displayed on their smartphones, the duo were booked on Air France flight AF655 which departed to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris at 5.20pm.

Both tickets were organised by the French Embassy in the UAE.

“Alhamdulillah, we are finally able to return to our children back home,” Ahlam told The National.

“We were only meant to be here for one week but got stuck for eight more days because of the travel disruptions.

We were only meant to be here for one week but got stuck for eight more days because of the travel disruptions

Ahlam Barhomi

“The embassy advised us to pack snacks for our journey because food is not available at the airport or on the flight due to health and safety reasons.”

The holidaymakers, both originally from Morocco, arrived in the emirate on March 17 and were due to leave on March 24.

They were forced to stay when all inbound and outbound passenger flights were suspended in the UAE to slow the spread of Covid-19.

So far, more than 877,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed globally.

Originating in China in late December, about 185,000 people have recovered from the disease and 43,569 patients have died.

In the UAE, figures remain relatively low. A total of 664 confirmed cases have been recorded, as well as 61 recoveries. The death toll on Wednesday, April 1 stood at six.

Ahlam, a French citizen, said she had secured her ticket after registering her details on the embassy website for a flight home.

She received final confirmation of her trip on Sunday, which included an onward connection to Toulouse, in the south of France.

“The French embassy have been nothing but helpful,” she said.

“Over the past few days, they have been calling me every few hours to update me on flight information.

“I can’t wait to get home, relax and reunite with my family, especially my kids.”

Her sister, Lina, a UK citizen for more than two decades, only received confirmation of her flight, which is transiting through Paris to London, on Tuesday.

“I had to pay £600 for my ticket but I’m just glad I am nearly home,” she said.

“Ahlam pleaded with the French embassy to get me on the same flight as her because I had no luck booking a flight through the British Embassy.

“Right now I think my embassy is prioritising emergency cases but I do not know what qualifies as an emergency.

“I have two kids in the UK that I need to get back to, so my priority was to fly as soon as possible.

The two sisters arrive at Dubai International Airport to board a repatriation flight booked by the French Embassy. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The two sisters arrive at Dubai International Airport to board a repatriation flight booked by the French Embassy. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“We got a call from the French Embassy on Tuesday saying there was a chargeable seat available for me on Air France, so we booked it straight away.”

On arrival at DXB’s Terminal 2 on Wednesday, staff were positioned at the entrances checking all passenger bookings before permitting entry.

Dozens of passengers from different nationalities were spotted outside the airport. Inside, crowds were fairly well dispersed across the terminal as part of social distancing measures.

Over the weekend, German, British and US nationals boarded special flights to their home countries, thanks to the efforts of the UAE government and airlines.

The National spoke to several embassies to find out about upcoming repatriation flights from the Emirates.

While officials did confirm staff were working to assist passengers, details about flight operations were not divulged.

They advised tourists to register their details with their embassy and said all updates would be communicated by phone, email or through official social media channels.

Updated: April 2, 2020 04:54 PM

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