200 Israelis held up in Dubai airport finally allowed to enter UAE

It was an “utter disgrace,” said an Israeli tourist waiting for entry. “There are families here with children and babies and people after a sleepless night.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Some 200 Israeli tourists who had taken a night flight to Dubai Sunday and were refused entry due to a sudden change in visa requirements were allowed to begin their trip to the UAE on Monday morning.

Among the agreements signed between Israel and the UAE as part of the Abraham Accords, there is a visa exemption for travelers that is to take effect by the end of December. Until then, Israelis were supposed to be able to receive an entry permit through the airlines, bringing them to their destination.

This rule seemingly changed on Sunday, or was at least suspended. While Israelis with dual citizenship could leave the airport, the others had to fill out an electronic visa form. The confusion lasted some four hours until senior officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry worked things out with their Emirati counterparts.

In an interview with Globes, a passenger named Kobi said that the situation they encountered was a “disgrace.”

It was an “utter disgrace,” he said. “There are families here with children and babies and people after a sleepless night. After assuring us that everything was in order with flydubai [airline] last week, they did some kind of scam on us. We have no one to talk to. Anyone with a foreign passport can enter and Israeli passport holders can’t enter, and it’s a pity that this is what’s happening. ”

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The airline apologized for the delay that it said affected 155 passengers.

“We understand the inconvenience caused to passengers and are checking the circumstances behind the delay. This is contrary to the standard of service we expect to provide to all passengers. At the same time, we are verifying the entry clearance procedure in order to avoid similar delays on future flights,” a flydubai representative said.

The Monday schedule of flights to Dubai was unaffected, and such delays are not expected to repeat themselves as Israelis coming to Dubai are now being told to fill out the E-visa forms. This is good news for Emirati tourism, as according to airline data, about 50,000 Israelis are expected to enter the country in December alone on some 300 commercial flights and additional charter flights run by tourism companies.

There are two major reasons for this rush to the Gulf country, according to Ziv Rosen, CEO of Gulliver Group, a leader in Israel’s online travel industry.

“The special period in which we live, along with the curiosity that the destination produces, caused Dubai to overtake New York [in bookings], and it has been in first place for two weeks,” Rosen said in late November.

The UAE is currently a ‘green’ country in terms of the coronavirus, meaning that travelers do not have to quarantine themselves for days upon their arrival or return. This may change, as just as in Israel, the number of new cases there is slowly on the rise. The Worldometer tracking site reports that the UAE has diagnosed an average of about 1,200 new cases a day over the past week.