Experience of flying from Dubai to Delhi during pandemic

Travelling Date: 17 Feb 2021

Airline: Air India AI 916

Finally, after 11 months staying in Dubai continuously time to visit India for a month. If I remember correctly this is 1st time in last 5-6 year that I stayed at any one place for more than 2 months continuously.

Pre travelling requirements: We needed to fill an AirSuvidha self-declaration form online and also had to upload RT PCR negative report to get exemption from quarantine (Max 72 hr before departure), link available at New Delhi airport web site. There was option to get tested at Delhi airport after arrival too but to save time and hassle we chose to get tested in Dubai.

Our flight departure time was 19:30 so we gave sample for RT PCR on 15th morning at International Modern Hospital, which is walking distance from my residence at Al Raffa. Rate was 150 AED which is common for almost all center. It was not crowded and took around half an hour to give the sample. Received the result in evening, took around 12 hr.

*Important

Rules to fly to India has changed from 22nd February. Now onwards negative  RT PCR result is must to board the flight to India, filling up self declaration online at AirSuvidha and uploading negative RT PCR result before flying is also must. only exemption is dead in direct family or a direct family member is critically ill or on dead bed. Also those travelling from Middle East and few other specific countries like UK, Brazil, South Africa need to go through second paid test after arriving at India. Passengers who are travelling directly from Middle East can exit the airport or can take transit flight after test but those from UK, Brazil, South Africa are not allowed to board the domestic transit flight until the result arrives. Also few states/cities have their own rules for quarantine ex Mumbai have mandatory paid institutional quarantine rules for those arriving from Middle East, UK and few other countries.

Rules changes regularly so do read latest rules on Delhi Airport website or your airport of arrivals.

Dubai Airport

PreCovid19 Air India used to fly from terminal 1 but now operating from T2,as T2 is not directly on metro route so cab was the only option. After Covid19 only passengers are allowed inside the terminal, ticket and passport check at entry point, just like India where since ages only passengers are allowed to enter terminal.

There was long queue at Air India check in counter, though there were instructions everywhere to maintain social distancing but unfortunately very few passengers were following, when will we the people understand that only government can’t do everything, we need to be responsible too. It took around 45 min to complete the check in process.

Then to immigration, Terminal 2 is a small terminal with respect to other terminals and less walking is involved, within 2 min walk from check in area we were at immigration, used smart gates and in another 1 minute we were at security. Another 5 min for security.

It was more than half an hour for boarding to be started so we visited Marhaba Lounge ,T2 only have one lounge. After Covid19 they had limited their service, no buffet only A la carte menu, though very limited but ok for this difficult situation, alcohol was available.

Food at Marhaba Lounge

Boarding started on time,T2 doesn’t have aerobridge, all boarding using bus. Air India (and other Indian carriers do weight the hand baggage at the time of boarding (mostly those which looks above the limit). A mask, face shield and sanitizer sachet were provided, those having middle seat were also provided a PPE jacket but after arriving at Delhi found that I was only among 3-4 more passenger who wore that.

Face Shield provided along with Face Mask and Sanitizer

Flight

Air Craft was Boeing 787 Dreamliner with 3X3X3 seating configuration ,on this route this is the most comfortable aircraft along with Emirates which operates Boeing 777 but hygiene level is certainly not up to the mark.

Previous Flight used napkins in the back pocket

When was planning for the trip thought that there won’t be much passenger as during this pandemic who would be travelling but I was  wrong, flight was full and no one was ready to manage social distancing. Flight departed on time, basic meal was provided in fact not a dinner but snacks, no alcohol served. Aircraft was not cleaned properly also needed  proper maintenance ,seat was damaged , IFE was not working, after having the snacks had a sleep.

Delhi Airport

Situation of Delhi airport was worst than any railway station or bus station, no social distancing, totally mismanaged ,what we were going to experience at airport was started to be seen at aircraft itself, even before the crew announced of seat belt most of the passengers were standing at aisle pushing each other , don’t know how much time they can save by doing these type of nuisance . At the terminal there were lots of staff of Delhi airport and different government department but most were busy with themselves. I can understand its 1st passengers responsibility to maintain social distancing but if they were not following then at least Airport authorities should have tried to maintain.

1st there was a queue ,no one was there to tell for what exactly the queue was but as everyone was joining so We did the same, spend 10-15 min then come to know this was for those who hadn’t uploaded the self declaration form and filled it offline .

Then we walk further and just before immigration there a counter for those who had already applied for quarantine exemption and received it online. As we had received the exemption online so joined that queue, there were very few people before us so took hardly 10 min,they checked our RT PCR report and exemption and stamp our boarding pass with “quarantine exemption”.

Now to immigration, even though very few flights are arriving India still there were long queue at immigration plus the queue was moving very slow, later we came to know that during immigration the officer is asking every one the detail  address for final destination  and contact number. We had already filled all these information and also carrying printout of that but still they were wasting the time filling those (and wasted our time too for filling online),typical Indian bureaucracy. Finally around 45 min passed the immigration then to baggage.

After the baggage another long queue, this time for  custom,precovid19 time there was no mandatory X ray screening of baggage, only random screening for green channel but this time its for all. There were only 2 X ray machine for arrival passengers of busy airport like Delhi, another joke from Indian bureaucracy .The queue was like a long and Ziz zag and there were many intelligent guys/family breaking the queue and joining in middle. Easily took another 20-25 min to clear custom and arrived at arrival hall. The arrival hall was also mismanaged. There were counters for those who didn’t arrived with RT PCR and have to go through test at Delhi but as we already had exemption so exit the area showing the boarding pass.

Overall experience of so called world class Delhi airport was pathetic, totally mismanaged courtesy Delhi airport management and various government departments, everyone was doing their best to make more mismanaged and hassle passengers,  took around 2 hour to exit after disembarking. Everyone was doing formality, no one was serious about Covid19 in fact Delhi airport was like a launchpad of Covid19,very much disappointed .

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