Navigating Through COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
Xuanyi Wang, Travel Risk Specialist
18 March 2020
It was a Wednesday afternoon when we received a call from our client, a large electronics conglomerate based in China, requesting support for over 30 of their employees who were in-flight from Santiago destined for Beijing, with a stopover at Dubai International Airport. After boarding in Santiago, they had heard that the UAE government had announced a ban on all visitors coming into the country, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the situation unfolded, their concerns started to grow over whether the employees would be stranded in Dubai or deported back to Santiago because of the new regulations in place. It was our mission to deploy our people to the airport and provide on-the-ground support to ensure the safe transit of the assignees.
We worked together with our Dubai regional security centre to help our client understand the transit policy and reassured them that their employees would not be affected by the entry ban. We also had two Mandarin-speaking coordinating security specialists in Dubai’s regional security centre on shifts covering the entire period of the transit.
Our coordinating security specialists in Dubai were able to reach the team leader of the travelling employees on landing and guided them to the next terminal at the airport. As wait for the onward journey to Beijing was going to be long, the team leader requested a place to stay. We arranged accommodation at the airport hotel, so that they did not have to leave the airport to enter UAE territory. We informed the hotel front desk on the employee’s behalf to facilitate with language support.
We were glad to have ensured that the passengers were well rested before boarding the next flight to Beijing, and our Assistance Centre in Beijing monitored the flight and gave a courtesy call to the team lead as they arrived two days later. Towards the end of the trip, our China desk specialists continued to give advice on future itineraries, including booking airport hotels in advance. Our client proceeded to issue the following compliment after the event: "Thanks to International SOS for helping several of our employees move from Santiago to China during the transit in Dubai! With the COVID-19 pandemic at its peak, employees were stranded for long periods, and subsequent flight arrangements were unpredictable.”