Exorbitant price of COVID-19 repatriation charter flights under fire

Wednesday, 26 August 2020 01:27 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • One-way ticket with star calls quarantine to cost over Rs. 200,000 per person
  • Lankan in Dubai makes public appeal to President, PM to come up with a plan to make flights affordable to workers in Middle East
  • Says majority hardly have money to get by as they are in menial jobs

SriLankan Airlines yesterday announced a special repatriation flight from Dammam in Saudi Arabia at the cost of over Rs. 220,000 per person amidst charges by Lankans stranded in the Middle East that the exorbitant price for the one-way tickets was unaffordable to many.

The flight from Dammam is being arranged in collaboration with the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah and will leave tomorrow, the Airline said.

The Notice by the Airlines said the cost per person is SAR 4,450 (Approx. Rs. 220,000) which includes an economy class one-way ticket from Dammam to Sri Lanka. This is inclusive of taxes and surcharges, 14-day quarantine in a minimum three-star hotel on Full Board Basis (twins sharing), mandatory two PCR tests and transportation from airport to hotel on a shared coach basis.

A Sri Lankan national working in Dubai Densil Gunarathne has made a public appeal to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to work out a more affordable way for locals to return home and requesting a stop the expensive chartered flights which many cannot afford.

“Majority of Sri Lankans here are into jobs with hardly managed salaries after expenses at both ends. I saw how people suffer near the Embassy. Sleeping in open areas in summer, without food and air-conditioning,” Gunarathne said.

He said these people have to pay AED 3850 (Rs. 193,270) for a one-way ticket on a charter flight and quarantine facilities.

“This has become a business at the expense of the poor people. Therefore, please stop the madness immediately and put a proper system in place for these people to return for a reasonable free,” he urged.

He also alleged that officers at the Embassy were paid AED 1000-2000 to get a seat on flight immediately.