The Saudi Arabian government has decided not to retain the passport of the Indian airline crew members on arrival in the country and issue a bar code instead, an Air India spokesperson confirmed.
The move comes as a big relief to the crew of Air India and Jet Airways, the two Indian airlines who fly to that country. Indian authorities had taken up the issue with the Saudi authorities and the decision not to retain the passport of the crews of Indian airlines came into effect from mid-February this year, the Air Indian spokesperson said.
The bar code given to the crew members will have a limited validity.
The development also comes against the backdrop of Saudi Arabia allowing a newly introduced Air India flight from New Delhi to Tel Aviv fly over its airspace, seen as a major diplomatic development in West Asia.
For long, passports of Indian crew members arriving in the country were taken away and given back on return. This led to major problems for the crew members in the country.
In July last year, four crew members of Air India were detained by the Saudi Arabian Police in Jeddah as they could not show them the original copies of their passport.
According to an Air India pilot, crew members of all airlines are required to deposit their passports at the immigration office at Jeddah, which issues a certificate. Airline staff deposit this certificate at their hotel and keep a photocopy with themselves.
Thus, the staffers only have photocopies of their travel documents during their stay in the country.
The crew members were out for dinner a day after their flight from Mumbai landed in Jeddah when a police team approached them to check their travel papers. When the airline staff failed to provide the original documents they were put in a police van and their phones confiscated.
After the matter was resolved, it was decided that the airline staffers will be issued a special Air India identity card.