NEW DELHI: Hectic preparations in a short period of time, ferrying staff from different places amid the lockdown and deploying a total of around 180 crew members for operating 24 Air India Express flights to bring back Indians stranded overseas.
As Air India Express operates flights as part of 'Vande Bharat Mission', its chief of operations Captain V S Rajkumar is confident of completing the operations smoothly.
Budget carrier Air India Express is part of the Air India group.
Rajkumar, who will be operating the evacuation flight from Trichy to Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, said a total of 24 flights would be operated by the carrier till May 13.
"I am confident that the operations will go on smoothly. There were quite a lot of preparations in the last one week," he told PTI.
A total of 60 pilots and 120 cabin crew members would be deployed for the 24 flights.
The airline has around 1,200 pilots and cabin crew.
"We are happy and proud to take part in this operation, it also proves we have the capability to deploy such a large workforce in a short time and transport a large number of people which was completely unplanned while the entire airline industry is shut," Rajkumar said.
All said the chief of operations has a request for neighborhoods of the crew members -- that they should be more considerate towards the members so that they can perform their jobs.
His comments come against the backdrop of instances of airline crew members not being allowed to go home or not treated properly by residential associations and societies amid fears of coronavirus infections.
"We request all neighborhood people of our crew, residential associations, to be a more helpful a lot of people do not cooperate. There are lot of complaints from crew members that resident associations threaten that they will not allow them (crew) to come in. My crew is surely doing a job as risky or rather more as anybody else who is involved in healthcare. If neighbors do not cooperate, it will be difficult for them and their families," he noted.
As part of the mission, Air India Express operated the first two flights on Thursday -- one from Abu Dhabi to Kochi and another from Dubai to Kozhikode.
Amid the lockdown, he said crew members had to be brought from various locations to the places from where flights are to operate and various regulatory requirements had to be complied with.
"What we see is that our pilots, including me, coming into the limelight but behind the screen, there is a huge workforce that is making it happen," he said.
A total of nine planes would be used for operating the flights.
Since there is a lockdown, additional efforts were required to mobilize manpower and other resources, including PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), sanitizers and masks, according to an official.
In each seat, a snack box -- having two vegetable sandwiches and one cake -- and a half-litre water bottle are kept before passengers start boarding the aircraft.
Besides, a 100 ml bottle of sanitizer and two masks are provided for each passenger, as per the official.
After completing a flight, each crew member is tested for COVID-19. Once the test results are negative, they are allowed to go home and after five days, they have to again undergo a reconfirmation test.
Only if the second test also comes negative, a crew member would be permitted to be part of a flight.
Since the people are being brought back in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, there would be minimum interaction with the passengers on board, and nine seats are left vacant.
These seats are kept vacant so that those can be used in case there is any emergency for a passenger.
Air India Express has Boeing 737-800 NG planes which have a seating capacity of 189 people.