May 11, 2022

UAE-India travel: Passengers affected as rapid PCR test fees at Indian airports weigh heavily

Dubai: Passengers from India to the UAE continue to face higher costs – apart from tickets, charges on rapid PCR tests carried out at airports in India. This is on top of the already high ticket prices in the area, with the most popular destinations charging well over Dh2,000 one way.

The rapid PCR test, a mandatory requirement for those traveling to the UAE, displays results in one to two hours and reduces the risk of transmission on board. Some of India‘s biggest airports charge upwards of 3,000 rupees for a single test, which has irritated travellers.

“The flaw with airport screening and testing is that there are no government-defined regulations,” said Mark D. Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Consulting, an aviation security consultancy. .

The cost is much higher at airports run by private companies. A rapid PCR test at Delhi airport now costs around Rs 3,500 – this is after a 10% reduction. Meanwhile, Kozhikode Airport, operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), has recently reduced its fare to Rs1,580 rupees from Rs2,400 rupees.

“The Ministry of Health or the DGCA (Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile) has not set any rates for such services to be rendered and any pricing is arbitrary,” Martin said. “As a result of the pandemic, travelers are struggling with expenses and for an expatriate worker doing menial work in Dubai or the Middle East, the financial burden increases many times over.

Airports in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad did not immediately respond to a Gulf News question about the high cost of testing. Mumbai International Airport, responding to a customer query on Twitter, said pricing for RT-PCR in some states is governed by state authorities. “However, prices for rapid PCR tests vary depending on the kit used.”

A spokesman for Bengaluru Airport, where rapid PCR tests cost between Rs 1,200 and Rs 3,000, said prices were “as per Karnataka government guidelines”.

Omicron effect

Although tourists and expats traveling to the UAE have been bearing the high costs for months, the issue really caught the eye once India tightened travel restrictions in the wake of Omicron restrictions. Passengers from ‘at risk’ countries – which include the UK, Brazil, South Africa, Botswana, China and Israel – must now undergo an RT-PCR test upon arrival in India and must wait for airport test results. .

Omicron, first reported in South Africa, has been found in 57 countries, and the World Health Organization (WHO) expects that number to continue to grow.

PCR costs add up to one ticket

An Indian family of three recently traveled to the United Arab Emirates from Delhi to visit relatives and were shocked to learn the amount at the airport. “In the end, the price we paid for the three of us would have allowed us to buy an extra ticket,” the father said.

Some have taken to social media to complain about the high prices. “Please tell me, why do (citizens) always bear the brunt of politicians? Previously I was paying Rs600 for the PCR, (and) now due to new regulations I am paying Rs4,000,” one user tweeted. “It’s pure looting and extortion in the name of regulation.

“Now that everyone is moving to rapid PCR due to new Omicron regulations, it’s time to review and revise the fillers as well.”

At the same time, some travelers seem impressed with the airports’ handling of the situation. When the second wave hit earlier this year, passengers were stranded at Indian airports amid flight suspensions.

Speaking about his experience at Delhi airport, a passenger on Twitter said: “The PCR report arrived in 70 minutes, instead of 90 minutes – the process was super smooth (as well as) very organized and hassle-free.”

Although high testing costs are an issue, many passengers are planning their trip even without knowing the existing COVID-19 protocol. In a circular issued on Sunday, Air India advised travel agents in the United Arab Emirates to update passenger information and inform travelers about PCR testing requirements at Indian airports.

“It has been observed that UAE-India-UAE and India-UAE tickets issued locally by travel agents do not have passengers’ Indian contact numbers for their inbound journey,” the airline said in a statement. circular. “We have also been informed by our airport offices in India that most passengers are unaware of the RT-PCR requirements (at Indian airports).”

Impact on travel

According to Willie Walsh, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the PCR test is a “huge deterrent” for people who want to travel.

“When we did a route review of this treatment with 16 countries, the cost ranged from zero in France to $278 in Tokyo for the same test and there is clear evidence that they (consumers) are getting rip off here,” Walsh said at a news conference last week.

“If these testing requirements are to remain in place, they must be regulated and competition authorities should already have dealt with them and used their powers to protect consumers who are forced to undertake expensive testing, poor quality of service and, in some cases, not even passing the test they paid for.