Special Dubai-Srinagar flights hit last-minute hitch

Representational Photo
Representational Photo

Uncertainty hit the proposed Dubai-Srinagar charter flights after the Dubai-based airline did not receive the required technical airport information from Srinagar International Airport even as the first of these flights was scheduled to departure on Tuesday.

The proposed flights which would bring back stranded Kashmiris would have been the first ever international airliners touching down the Srinagar Airport.

The Dubai-based Kashmiris, who were coordinating with "Flydubai" airline, for the charter flights told  Greater Kashmir that "last moment hurdles" in the formalities has disappointed hundreds of Kashmiris in Dubai, who were eagerly awaiting their return to home on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"J&K government had confirmed that they have approved the flights but there was a last minute resistance from the Srinagar Airport authorities in providing the technical information. They were not providing required details to the Flydubai airline," said one of the persons from the team in Dubai coordinating the evacuation flights. The person wished not to be named.

"The tech inalienable data and charts were not provided by local airport authorities in Srinagar to Flydubai airline. These are necessary for landing of these flights. This information is a requirement of the civil aviation authorities in the UAE for the airlines operated by UAE carriers. But they have not received it even as the flights were proposed for next two days," he said.

After hectic efforts from Dubai-based Kashmiris, which even involved pooling of money to arrange the flights, Flydubai airline had agreed to operate three flights with 189 passengers aboard each aircraft to Srinagar on June 9, 10.

Senior officials in J&K administration had last week confirmed to this paper that there was even a go ahead to these flights from Ministry of External Affairs in India. "But now the airline has informed us that required technical information from Srinagar Airport has not reached them.

This is vital for this flight operation as their crew need to be briefed about this. The airline is asking for an additional Rs 13 lakh to route the flight to Delhi and have a connecting flight from there which is a burden on the already stranded persons," said the person who is part of coordinating team with the Flydubai airline.

The hypersensitive Srinagar airport is under direct operational control of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which controls its air traffic and landing strip and also the facilities of fire-fighting and crash activities, apart from the airspace.

The terminal building, where the passengers check-in and check-out, and the apron area, where an aircraft is parked, are however controlled by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The AAI officials said the details such as "airport facility chart, airport ground chart, standard instrument departure charts, standard arrival route charts and approach charts" which the Dubai-based airline has sought "can only be provided by the IAF".

When contacted, Director, Airports Authority of India, Srinagar, Santosh Dhoke, said that he had clearly informed the Dubai authorities that "all necessary airport and runway information they needed could be provided to them only by the IAF which is directly handling the flying space and runway here."

Meanwhile, Kashmiris stranded in various emirates of UAE informed this newspaper about the "hardships" they were facing due to the lockdown and suspension of routine international air traffic.

Dr Iram, a medical officer from Srinagar, said from Abu Dhabi that they were stranded due to the lockdown and "were eager to return home".

"I am travelling to this place with my mother and sister in law but now we are too eager to be back home. We came here for only one month but it has been four months of our extended stay now," Dr Iram said.

"The Air India flight under Vande Bharat Mission to be operated between Dubai and Srinagar on Thursday has accommodated only a selected few.

"Even after several requests to the Indian Embassy here, we have not received a call from them. The Air India flight for Srinagar from Dubai is on June 11 but I am not scheduled on that flight. We have registered for the chartered flight also but have not heard back so far," Dr Iram said. 

The first and only direct flight from Dubai to Srinagar so far was operated on May 22 which brought back more than 150 stranded persons but the cry for more flights has been growing with each passing day.

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