Jeddah: Air India has halted all its flights to and from Saudi Arabia with immediate effect, following the kingdom’s decision to suspend all international commercial flights for a ‘renewable’ week amidst reports of the appearance of a new mutated strain of coronavirus in some European countries.
Saudi Arabia also closed its land and seaports for a week according to state news agency SPA reported quoting an interior ministry source. The source added that the one-week flight ban may be extended “until medical information about the nature of this virus becomes clear,” the report said.
Various flights from Jeddah and Riyadh to Hyderabad and other Indian cities were cancelled. All flights to India were fully booked as most NRIs traveling back home prior to the end of the year to avail their annual vacation which was disrupted earlier. “Until flight permissions are restored, all flights will remain cancelled,” said Air Indian official Mohammed Fayaz.
The latest Saudi Arabian travel ban has a crippling effect on Indian community among the foreigners in the country. Already Saudi Arabia has suspended entry of anyone coming to its territory who has been in India and other two countries 14 days prior to their arrival. Indians unlike their other counterparts are not allowed to enter Saudi Arabia directly, they are allowed to come only after 14 days of being away from India as Covid-19 precaution measure.
Indian officials are relentlessly working to reach an air bubble agreement with Saudi Arabia to allow direct incoming passenger flights. Unable to enter straight into Saudi Arabia, returning NRIs spend 14 days in other countries mainly in Dubai before arrival in Saudi Arabia. “I am optimistic that the ban will end after a week and be able to come to Saudi Arabia”, said Mirza Nuzhat Baig, hailing from Mehdipatnam in Hyderabad and who is spending time in Dubai on the way to Saudi Arabia.
“I am scheduled to travel Hyderabad on next Monday, hopefully by then the ban will end and I may continue my travel”, said P.V.Satya Nanajee of Secunderabad. If ban extended, then remain in the country till it lifts, he added.