After a last minute change of immigration rules, around 200 Israeli passengers were held up in Dubai International Airport (DXB) on December 7, 2020.
FlyDubai flight FZ1628 departed from Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) and landed in Dubai at 6am on December 7, 2020. Upon arrival, passengers with only Israeli passports were not allowed to enter the country, according to the Channel 12 News.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said that passengers would be allowed to enter the country “in the coming hours” after filling out an e-Visa application. The issue was resolved after a five-hour delay the Israeli tourists were eventually granted entry.
“We apologize to the 155 passengers who were delayed on arrival this morning. We are reviewing the reasons behind the delay and fully understand that this was inconvenient to our passengers’ schedules. This is not the standard of service we expect for any of our passengers and we are also revalidating the processes and procedures to prevent any delays to subsequent flights,” said a spokesperson from flyDubai.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) reportedly suspended tourist visas for Israeli travelers on December 6, 2020. The arriving passengers were not notified before boarding the flight. One of the possible reasons may be the concerns over COVID-19 cases that have spiked in recent weeks in the UAE.
Israel and the UAE signed a peace treaty in August 2020. In November 2020, the two countries agreed on a mutual visa exemption deal and allowed 28 direct weekly passenger flights connecting Tel Aviv with Abu Dhabi and Dubai. On December 3, 2020, the UAE started issuing tourist visas for Israeli travelers.
On November 26, 2020, flyDubai operated the first direct flight Dubai-Tel Aviv and announced the operation of regular flights with a total of 14 flights a week.
The demand is high as the UAE is one of the quarantine-free countries for Israelis to travel. Despite the ongoing pandemic, around 15,000 Israeli passengers are expected to arrive in Dubai in December 2020.