A group of around 200 Israeli tourists are trapped in Dubai International Airport (DXB) after immigration officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suddenly changed visa rules without notice, reports Israel’s Channel 12 News (Hebrew only). The tourists and business travellers arrived in Dubai early on Monday morning but have not yet been granted entry to the UAE and are still waiting at the border according to reports from the airport.
Dubai has proved incredibly popular for Israeli tourists after the UAE started issuing tourists visas on December 3 as part of a normalization in diplomatic relations with Israel. Around 15,000 Israeli’s are expected to visit Dubai in December despite the Coronavirus pandemic and rising levels of infection in Israel.
Until a few weeks ago, there weren’t any commercial flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai. Now, there are three airlines competing for tourists and the budget carrier flydubai has already announced plans to add a third daily flight between the two cities because of the massive demand.
According to senior Israeli diplomats quoted by Channel 12, the UAE suddenly changed its visa entry rules late on Sunday night. The tourists currently trapped in Dubai airport will be allowed to enter but a broader solution to the issue has not yet been reached.
Some of the trapped travellers say they are now being asked to apply for an e-visa which costs between $90 and $300.
In the meantime, there are reports that other scheduled flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai will be delayed until the issue has been resolved. Israeli officials have suggested the reason for the sudden change in policy was prompted by local media reporting that the UAE could be added to Israel’s Coronavirus Red list.
Dubai is one of only three destinations that Israeli’s can currently visit without needing to quarantine on their return but a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in Dubai means Israeli health authorities might slap returning travellers with self-isolation requirements.
The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation has not publicly commented on the situation.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.