By Nawara Fattahova
KUWAIT: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has mandated 14 days of quarantine for all arriving passengers as one of the conditions applied with the start of commercial flights from Aug 1, 2020. Quarantine is compulsory although all passengers are obliged to have a negative PCR test result before boarding. This will negatively affect travel operations in Kuwait, according to a statement by the Kuwait Travel and Tourism Agencies Association.
Travel agencies have received requests for hundreds of cancelations of bookings they made after announcing the opening of Kuwait International Airport. “The quarantine rule affected the majority of my bookings, causing losses of thousands of dinars. Our industry was already badly hit by the pandemic, when we had to change or cancel previous bookings, but we are now receiving cancelation requests even for new bookings due to this rule,” Sulaiman Al-Habib, owner of Al-Raya Travel, told Kuwait Times.
“After the announcement of the 14-day quarantine, people started canceling their trips as they don’t want to remain this long in quarantine, especially since these days will be deducted from their leaves. The majority of our bookings were to Turkey and Dubai, which are nearby destinations. The pandemic and the curfews have affected people’s mental health and they need to travel, but this rule is a great obstacle for them,” he added.
According to him, this rule is illogical. “Many people – and I’m one of them – travel for business, which are usually short trips. So it’s not logical to travel for three days and then be in quarantine for two weeks. We have sent our complaint against this rule to the DGCA and the Cabinet and we hope it will be canceled,” stressed Habib.
The requirements in many counties are either a PCR test or quarantine. In Qatar for instance, which will also start operating commercial flights from Aug 1, the quarantine period is for seven days. In Dubai, which resumed commercial flights earlier this month, quarantine is seven days form countries listed as less dangerous or for certain professions, and 14 days for the rest. In Bahrain, where commercial flights are also operating, quarantine is for 10 days. Oman hasn’t resumed operations yet, and has not set any date for launching commercial flights.
The 14-day quarantine rule has led to the cancelation of over 50 percent of reservations at some travel agencies. “Official decisions are made very quickly every day. Some countries have canceled the quarantine rule for arrivals to promote tourism, but imposing it here made many people cancel their bookings with our agency, causing us great losses,” said Saeid Radwan of Al-Madar Travel Agency.
Different airlines apply different rules. “Some airlines have very good policies as they refund or change the booking without any additional charges. Other carriers are not providing the refund option, and only accept changes in booking without charging fees, but they still charge for the difference in price between the canceled ticket and the new one. And this causes problems for us with our clients,” added Radwan.