New Delhi, May 22 (PTI) A SpiceJet plane ferrying ace pugilist M C Mary Kom and 30 other members of an Indian boxing contingent from Delhi was forced to circle over Dubai for around 45 minutes, and allowed to land after it declared a fuel emergency on Saturday morning, sources said. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is investigating the incident, they said.
The sources said that due to COVID-19 restrictions, SpiceJet had got special permission from the UAE government to bring these boxers to Dubai for Asian Boxing Championship 2021 that will be held between May 24 and June 1.
However, the plane had to wait in the UAE airspace for around 45 minutes due to some confusion at the Dubai airport's air traffic control on whether the aircraft can be allowed to land or not and a fuel emergency was declared, they said.
The UAE, since April 25, has barred all travellers from India -- except UAE nationals, diplomatic passport holders and official delegation letter holders -- due to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit the country.
The flight SG142 carrying 31 boxers and six crew members departed from the Delhi airport at around 2.20 AM (Indian time) and landed at the Dubai airport at around 6.20 AM (Indian time) on Saturday morning.
Six-time world champion Mary Kom was among the boxers on board the aircraft.
SpiceJet spokesperson said in a statement: 'An Indian boxing contingent travelled on a SpiceJet flight from Delhi to Dubai today. The aircraft has reached Dubai safely and all passengers have cleared the immigration. The flight and passengers carried proper documentation.' 'It was a regular passenger flight under the air bubble agreement and the same aircraft is bringing passengers to India from Dubai on its return leg.' All scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 23 last year. However, special international flights have been operating under Vande Bharat Mission since May 2020 and under air bubble arrangement formed with around 27 countries since July last year.
The Boxing Federation of India issued a statement, thanking the Indian ambassador to the UAE for his assistance but did not go into details of what caused the delay in the flight's landing.
'Indian contingent has landed in Dubai and reached the hotel. Two rounds of RT-PCR test have been conducted -- one at the airport and the other at the hotel. Indian team flew on SpiceJet flight under the air bubble agreement with all necessary and relevant permissions,' the statement read.
'Boxing Federation of India is grateful to the Indian Embassy and Ambassador Mr Pavan Kapoor for his help in ensuring the contingent's participation at the 2021 ASBC Asian Championships. We are also thankful to the Asian Boxing Confederation and the UAE government,' it added.
The 10-strong women's team is being led by Mary Kom (51kg) along with three other Olympic-bound boxers -- Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) and Pooja Rani (75kg).
Apart from India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, and Uzbekistan are among the prominent countries which will compete at the continental showpiece.
India had delivered its best-ever Asian Championship performance in the 2019 edition in Thailand, claiming 13 medals, including two gold, four silver and seven bronze.
The tournament starts on Monday with the draws lined up for Sunday. It is the only major competition that the boxers will get before the July-August Olympics given the COVID-19 restrictions in place around the globe.
'There was some confusion regarding the approval letter for the trip which was eventually sorted thanks to the intervention of the Indian Embassy in the UAE,' a source close to the team told PTI. PTI DSP PM RT