Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 29 May 2020

Coronavirus: tourists stranded in UAE given fresh hope as embassies arrange flights home

A UK tourist in the UAE is to be flown back to her home in France on Wednesday as embassies work around the clock to aid their citizens

More flights are being arranged by embassies in the UAE to help repatriate thousands of tourists stranded in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In documents shared with The National, it was confirmed one such flight was due to depart Dubai International Airport on Wednesday evening.

The Air France operated flight will depart at 5.20pm and stop in Paris before making its onward flight to Toulouse, in the South of France.

British tourist Lina Barhomi, who was holidaying in Dubai when flights were cancelled last week to slow the spread of the virus, said her sister was booked on the April 1 flight.

“She lives in France and managed to get a free ticket [out of the UAE] departing on Wednesday to Toulouse via Paris,” she told The National.

I had pneumonia last year and contracted MRSA when hospitalised, so I am worried and just want to get home to UK

Lina Barhomi

“She called the French Embassy last week and registered her information with them.

“They informed her they would find her a flight and now she is booked to leave on Wednesday.”

The French Embassy was contacted for more details about the special flight, but has yet to respond.

More than 350 German, US and British nationals boarded flights to their respective countries at the weekend, as the UAE government granted airlines special permission to depart.

However, many tourists remain in the country.

Ms Barhomi said she registered for a repatriation flight to the UK with the British Embassy in the UAE, but had yet to be informed about any planned operations.

“I’m stressed and cannot afford to pay for my hotel room or food much longer,” she said.

“I have health issues with high blood pressure and my medication is running out.

“I had pneumonia last year and contracted MRSA when hospitalised, so I am worried and just want to get home to the UK.

“[The embassy] only responded to my email to confirm my contact details.”

Speaking to The National, an embassy spokesman confirmed it was working around the clock to contact stranded UK citizens in the Emirates.

"Our message to British visitors has consistently been to contact us at uaeconsular.escalations@fco.gov.uk," he said.

“We are finding ways home for those British visitors who have followed this advice and that we have identified as having an urgent need to return to the UK.

“We will continue to do this and will not be satisfied until all visitors who want to return to the UK are back home.”

On Tuesday evening, the British Embassy in the UAE posted a tweet updating Britons on the status of their requests to return home.

“Thank you for contacting us at uaeconsular.escalations@fco.gov.uk. Please ensure you check your email regularly for updates from our consular team, including on options for flights home," it said.

In replies by prospective passengers, some said they were given the option to board a flight leaving Dubai on April 5 to London's Heathrow Airport.

Last week's widespread disruption to the aviation industry left millions of holidaymakers across the world in limbo.

For more than a week, tourists have been taking refuge in airport terminals, hotels and rented accommodation in the hope of returning to their home countries.

On Monday, the British government estimated that between 300,000 and one million UK citizens were stranded abroad.

It announced a Dh340 million “twin-track approach” with airlines to fly Britons back from “priority countries" and where commercial flights were running, subsidies would be given for tickets.

Paul Raymund Cortes, consul general of the Philippines in the UAE, said the consulate was liaising with a Filipina who remained in Dubai.

“When the travel restrictions came into effect, we had a Filipino national who arrived at Dubai International Airport en route to Luxembourg,” he said.

“She holds a residency in Luxembourg but was unable to fly out due to the flight cancellations.

“She has been staying inside a hotel in the airport for about a week.”

Mr Cortes said the consulate was working to secure a place for her on a connecting flight, stopping in Paris, in the coming days.

Updated: April 1, 2020 05:53 PM

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