By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: With the suspension of commercial flights to and from Kuwait, passengers who were supposed to fly back to Kuwait were caught off guard. Many rushed to the airport to get the last available seats before the 11 pm deadline on Monday.

Kuwait Times IT Manager Islam Al-Sharaa, who went to Dubai last week for a short break, was scheduled to fly back to Kuwait today, but it looks like he will have to stay for some more days in Dubai. “When I heard the news, I rushed to the airport knowing that the travel ban will be imposed at 11 pm.

I noticed not only me, but many other passengers going to Kuwait were all trying to secure seats. But we were unable to get new tickets or rebook our tickets, as they said the remaining flights were all booked and no extra seats were available,” he said.

Kuwait’s Cabinet on Monday announced the closure of all ports and suspended all commercial flights from Dec 22 to Jan 1 after a new fast-spreading strain of coronavirus was detected in Britain. On Sunday, Kuwait banned passenger flights from Britain.

“I immediately took a PCR test so I could catch a flight back to Kuwait, but the result would only be available after two hours. This was very close to the deadline set by the Kuwait government, so I went back to my hotel, still shocked,” Sharaa said. He considered going back to his home country Jordan, but all passengers who enter Jordan need to quarantine for 14 days.

“So it’s really not a good idea to travel to Jordan. Kuwait has suspended flights only until January 1, so I better wait here. I hope it will not be extended. My problem is hotel accommodation – if they charge too much, maybe I will join my brother who is working here in Dubai,” he added.

Norman, who was invited by his brother to spend Christmas and New Year in Dubai, was scheduled to leave Kuwait on Dec 23. “I had the ticket to Dubai, but I canceled it today morning when I heard the news. I had the visa as well, so it is very unfortunate that I cannot be with them this Christmas and New Year,” he said.

On the other hand, he noted this is better than to be stuck outside Kuwait and spend most of his savings. “If the suspension had come a bit later, I would’ve been stuck in Dubai. I don’t want to be stuck outside Kuwait because I have lots of pending jobs,” Norman added.