Dubai: Some UAE businessmen and other expats, who were stranded after the suspension of the incoming flights from India to the UAE from April 25, are back in the UAE on private jets.
But, the family of a perfume businessman in the UAE taking a jet to return to Dubai amid the COVID-19 flight suspension has gone viral in his home state, Assam, owing to two reasons.
Mushtaque Anfar, owner of oud and perfume company Oudh Al Anfar perfumes, took the very first private jet from Guwahati, which does not have international flight services, and spent a whopping $75,000 for it.
The eight-member family’s flight, which landed in Dubai on Thursday night, hit headlines in local media across Assam. The reports said it was for the first time that a private jet from Dubai flew to the north-east Indian airport to pick up a family from there on its return trip.
The first ever direct international flight to Guwahati was a special flydubai flight repatriating stranded Indians in the UAE during the COVID-19 repatriation drive, Vande Bharat Mission, on July 3, 2020.
Speaking to Gulf News on Sunday, Mushtaque said he and his eldest son Abdullah Anfar, the managing director of the company, decided to opt for a private jet from Guwahati for various reasons.
“We have been wanting to go back to the UAE because staying away for long would affect the business there,” he said.
No QR Code!
Sharing exclusive pictures and video of their journey, Abdullah said: “My return ticket was on April 25. When the news broke about the suspension of the flights from that day, there was no way for us to get RT-PCR test results with QR codes from our village. So, we couldn’t manage to fly within the short period after the announcement.” Usually, the family flies via Mumbai as there is no direct flight to Guwahati.
“We also used to have a stopover for a couple of days in Mumbai as we have our business there. We have a shop and our house over there. But, we did not want to follow that route this time due to the COVID-19 situation,” he said.
Being UAE Gold Card residency visa holders, Mushtaque, his wife and youngest son could even fly back on the return leg of passenger flights from the UAE. However, Abdullah, his wife and three sons, are yet to get their gold residency. “And, we thought it is better not to fly with anyone else, for our safety,” said Abdullah.
Considering all these aspects, the father-son duo decided to fly on a jet shelling out so much money for the six-hour journey. He said one of his friends, who travels regularly on private jets, helped him with contacts of the jet operators. “Jets were not available immediately. I had booked 10 days in advance,” said Abdullah.
The kids were more excited, he recollected. “They study in Dubai in the same school where I studied. For them, Dubai is their first home and they wanted to go back to their home the soonest.”
COVID-19 relief work in India
However, they have not just spent money for their comfortable travel. They were also active in doing COVID-19 relief work in their village.
“My grandfather started our business in 1950 in our village called Hojai in Assam, which is known for oud. Now, we have retail shops all across the GCC and we distribute our products to over 30 countries. We have employed several people from our village both abroad and back home. My father runs a foundation that is heavily into the welfare of the people of our village.”
He said the family had been feeding thousands of people in their village ever since the surge of the COVID-19 cases back home.
“We were buying the food stuff in bulk quantity and packing them for six people per family. We also took the service of our employees to deliver the food items to all the needy people in the village so that they can stay home during the lockdown.”
He said the family also supported COVID-19 patients in their locality by providing them with oxygen cylinders.
“There is only one hospital in our village. It had very few oxygen cylinders. Under the foundation of my father, we sent some dozens of oxygen cylinders for the patients every day. Once they were used, we also helped with refilling. My father was personally overseeing the distribution of oxygen cylinders,” said Abdullah.
Having seen the peak of the COVID-19 crisis in India which left patients scrambling for hospital beds and medical oxygen, Abdullah appreciated the way the pandemic had been handled by the UAE authorities.
“We thank the leaders and authorities here for everything that we enjoy. We feel that the UAE is the safety place to be now.”