A single Indian businessman was the only passenger onboard Air India flight AI929 between Amritsar (ATQ), and Dubai (DXB) on Wednesday morning. When SP Singh Oberoi boarded the Air India Airbus A320 early Monday morning for the three-and-a-half hour flight to his home in Dubai, he was surprised to find that he was the only passenger on the plane.
Flights between India and the United Arab Emirates( UAE) were suspended for the public on April 24 following a significant spike in India’s number of COVID-19 cases. However, despite the ban, the UAE made exceptions for Emiratis, Diplomats, and golden visa holders. It just so happened that the gentleman in question happened to hold the aforementioned golden visa.
A memorable journey
While thanking both the Indian government and the UAE for his memorable journey, the Indian businessman said the following on his Facebook page:
“Sometimes in vital situations, we get opportunities to cherish for life. Highly appreciate the Government of UAE and India for making it a memorable journey. Thank you, Air India, for your special services. You made it absolutely a wonderful journey.”
Air India had said earlier that regular flights would resume between India and the UAE, tweeting:
“Flights to Dubai are being operated with curtailed scheduled due to travel restrictions implemented by UAE govt. Before planning your travel, please confirm your eligibility for entry into UAE.”
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The Air India Airbus A320-200 that Mr. Oberoi flew on is just under six years old and has the registration number VT-EXE. The aircraft was delivered to Air India by Airbus new in 2015, and it is configured to seat 168 passengers.
What is a UAE golden visa?
To receive a ten-year golden visa, a person must invest a minimum of at least AED 10 million ($2.72 million), either through an investment fund or a company. Mr. Oberoi is the managing trustee of Sarbat Da Bhala Trust, the president of Asian Gatka Foundation, and founder and chairman of the Apex Group Of Companies. UAE golden visas are valid for ten years and are automatically renewed.
When speaking to Asian News International (ANI) and picked up by NDTV about the experience of being the only passenger on the plane, Mr. Oberoi said, “I felt like a maharaja during my travel.”
According to ANI, Mr. Oberoi was at first refused permission to get on the aircraft but was later allowed following the intervention of officials at the Ministry of Aviation. Mr. Oberoi had UAE proof that he was fully vaccinated for COVID-19 in the UAE and, more importantly, was a holder of a UAE golden visa which meant he was allowed to enter the Gulf state despite others not being allowed in.
Not the first such occurrence
If you’ve been following Simple Flying articles, you’ll know that this has happened before. Indeed, in late May, Emirates took just one passenger from Mumbai to Dubai on a Boeing 777. There have been reports of additional similar stories as well – also between India and the UAE. Sadly this will continue as long as travel restrictions remain in place against India.
Have you ever been on an extremely empty regular commercial flight? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.