Muscat: Stranded passengers of the three South Asian countries from which entry to Oman is now prohibited are hopeful they will be allowed to fly back soon.
From 6pm on Saturday, 24 April onwards, nationals of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been denied entry into the country, as part of measures announced by the Supreme Committee to deal with COVID-19 to stop the spread of the virus in the country.
“My wife was supposed to come back next week from Bangalore,” said Mohan Bharadwaj, an Indian expatriate in Sohar.
“Her tickets have been booked, but we have no choice but to postpone her return until the entry ban is lifted. We shall have to wait and see what developments take place in the coming weeks.”
Akram Khan from Lahore in Pakistan added, “I was expecting to join my brother’s family in Muscat on Sunday, but I understand that is not possible right now, because of the recent measures. Hopefully I can spend Eid with them.”
The rule concerning the entry of passengers into Oman also applies to people who have spent the last 14 days in the three countries. Exceptions include diplomats serving in accredited embassies, Omani nationals, health workers, and their families, who have to follow the required COVID precautions on arrival into the country.
Travel agents in Oman are also hopeful the entry ban will be lifted soon, with a significant portion of their business coming from these three countries.
“We have had to reschedule and cancel a lot of bookings for passengers, because of the decision to suspend entry to the country,” said a manager at a leading tour agency in the country. “A large part of our business comes from these three countries, particularly now, because travel is restricted because of the pandemic.
“Before the situation got very serious in India, people would still go home to visit their relatives, on business trips, or on annual leave, so they would arrange their bookings through us, but now, all that has been stopped,” he added.
“Maybe the smaller tour companies can still handle the impact, but an organisation like us that has operations around the country will be significantly affected by this, so I hope this decision regarding entry into Oman comes to an end soon.”
While entry into the country is prohibited until further notice, travel to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh is still permitted.
“We have normal scheduled operations to India and Pakistan as there are no restrictions to take passengers into these countries,” said an official at Oman Air, the country’s national carrier. “Guests must follow COVID protocols of the destination countries as well as Oman. In addition to India and Pakistan, Oman Air will operate three weekly flights to Dhaka.”
To bring back as many people as possible, Oman Air also deployed wide body aircraft on flights to the three countries. The airline usually operates 18 flights a week to India – three each to Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Kochi, two to Thiruvananthapuram, and one to Bengaluru. It also operates three each to Islamabad and Lahore, and two to Karachi, in Pakistan.
Three weekly flights – set to increase to five from 1 May – operate to and from Bangladesh. Flights to Dhaka are available three times a week, while a route to Chittagong on a twice-weekly basis will begin from May onwards. The airline also has a thrice weekly flight to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.