Lufthansa dials Bahrain after UAE's no to transit flyers from India

Lufthansa had earlier decided that in view of the raging Covid-19 storm in India, its flights would halt in Dubai so that its pilots and cabin crew can avoid a layover in India

Lufthansa dials Bahrain after UAE's no to transit flyers from India
A Lufthansa B747-8 at Bengaluru's Kempegowda International Airport. Image courtesy: Wikipedia Commons/Sunnya343

New restrictions imposed by the UAE on passengers from India transiting through Dubai have forced Lufthansa to look for an alternative stopover destination for its flights between Germany and India. Accordingly, it was decided that Lufthansa's 10 weekly flights between Frankfurt and Delhi/Mumbai/Bengaluru would take a crew change halt at Bahrain, instead of the global aviation hub of Dubai from May 16. 

"This change was made due to new UAE regulations that restrict flights between India and Dubai for passengers who were transiting there up to now for operational reason," German flag carrier Lufthansa said, according to a PTI report. 

Lufthansa had earlier decided that because of the raging Covid-19 storm in India, its flights would make a stopover in Dubai so that its pilots and cabin crew can avoid a layover in India. Accordingly, one set of crew members was supposed to fly from Frankfurt to Dubai, and another set was to take the aircraft to Delhi, Mumbai or Bengaluru. On the return leg, the same crew members that flew to India were supposed to fly the plane back to Dubai, and the third set of crew members would then operate the flight back to Germany from Dubai.

The UAE had earlier indefinitely extended its ban on flyers from India. According to a Gulf News report, passengers on all flights on national and foreign carriers from India and transit passengers from India are to be prevented from entering the UAE. Travellers who had been in India 14 days before they arrived in the UAE will also be denied entry. Those flying to the UAE from India through other countries are required to furnish proof of spending at least 14 days in a country other than India.   

Also read: Lufthansa takes major decision to avoid contact with Covid-ravaged India

Last week, the travel ban was extended to non-UAE resident flyers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, Reuters reported. The ban includes transit flights from these countries as well. 

Passengers, except returning UAE nationals, who have travelled from or transited through India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the past 14 days would not be allowed to travel or transfer through Dubai from any point, the Dubai-based aviation behemoth Emirates noted in its website. Apart from UAE nationals, certain other categories of passengers have been exempted from the travel restrictions. These are members of diplomatic missions, holders of UAE golden visa, passengers exempted and/or granted permission to enter the UAE by the appropriate authorities and passengers travelling on a business flight with valid Covid-19 PCR test certificates. 

Lufthansa flights in India have been planned to be quick turnaround (QTA) flights and the crew members are not supposed to leave the aircraft while in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. 

The Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has been receiving requests from several airlines to exempt pilots operating international flights from RT-PCR tests. The current norms in India necessitate such tests. However, the MoCA has made an exemption for the crew of quick turnaround flights who do not alight from the aircraft.

"Considering that cockpit crew remain within aircraft in a sterile environment of the flight deck and the cabin crew are protected by PPE (personal protective equipment), these crew operating international QTA flights are exempted from RT-PCR test on arrival at Indian airports," said a MoCA order last month. 

Also read: India quarantined! As Covid-19 wreaks havoc, these countries impose travel curbs

"By swiftly and flexibly adapting to rapidly changing conditions we are able to continue operating all Lufthansa flights to and from India as scheduled. This is particularly important in these difficult times. Our flights to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, like the few connections of other airlines, are vital for essential passenger travel and freight shipments to and from India," George Ettiyil, Senior Director for South Asia, Lufthansa Group Airlines, was quoted as saying by The Times of India. 

The Lufthansa Group operates the Lufthansa and SWISS airlines connecting India and Germany. These flights have been carrying "tonnes" of urgent Covid-19 relief materials like vaccines, respirators and oxygen concentrators to India at a time when India is being ravaged by not only a massive Covid-19 wave but also an acute shortage of vaccines and oxygen. 

Domestic civil aviation operations, which have been steadily progressing towards pre-Covid levels, have suffered a rude jolt as a result of the Covid surge. The number of domestic passengers rose to 3,13,668 on 2,353 flights on February 28, 2021. This was a record since the domestic sector was reopened after a two-month break in the wake of the pandemic. The total footfall was a whopping 6,17,824.    

On April 14, there were 1,93,319 passengers on 2,141 flights. The total number of flight movements was 4,287 and the total footfall at airports stood at 3,86,232.  
  
Cut to a month later. On May 14, the total footfall had fallen to 1,08,147, and the total flight movement had seen a drastic decline to 1,657. Only 54,181 domestic passengers departed and  53,966 passengers arrived at airports in India. The Indian aviation sector, which was recovering as the country was seen to get a semblance of control over the coronavirus especially with the start of the vaccination drive, has gone backwards again as a result of the second Covid-19 wave, which has spooked away flyers. 

On May 17, India reported 2,81,386 new Covid cases over 24 hours. As high as that number may be, the positive point is that daily new Covid cases have now gone below three lakh after 26 days. India's active cases stood at 35,16,997, while there have been a total of 2,74,390 deaths so far.

(Cover image courtesy: Wikipedia Commons/Sunnya343)