BENGALURU: National carrier Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express will fly the first few repatriation flights on Thursday to bring back Indians stranded in 16 countries, said Director General of Civil Aviation Arun Kumar. The operation was scheduled to begin on Wednesday, but was delayed by a day as Covid-19 tests had to be conducted on all the crew members, he said. An airline source said four flights will be operated on May 7 — New Delhi to San Francisco, Kochi to Abu Dhabi, Delhi to Singapore and Calicut to Dubai. “Hopefully, we will run all of them from Thursday”, he added sounding cautious.
In a span of one week, Air India planned to bring back a total of 14,800 Indians from 12 countries on 64 flights, according to the flight plan released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on Tuesday. The release of the plan led to a mad rush to register on the Civil Aviation ministry website, resulting in it crashing for a good part of the day on Wednesday.
Air India has begun bookings on its portal on Wednesday evening, said an airport source. Speaking to The New Indian Express, Kumar said, “There has been a minor delay in executing the plan. Tests related to Covid-19 had to be conducted on the pilots and the crew on Wednesday. It has been completed and they are ready to begin operations tomorrow (May 7).” Indians who want to travel to the countries where the flights are being operated to, can also do so, Kumar added.
Indians to be repatriated from US, UK
As per the plan, Air India was supposed to operate 10 flights the day it begins the evacuation operations.
“Bengaluru was supposed to receive the first flight arriving from London on May 8, but due to the delay, schedules have gone haywire. We are not sure of the exact date now,” an airport source said. He added that getting the necessary clearances from international agencies delayed the start of operations.
The UAE, UK, US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Phillipines, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Kuwait and Oman are the countries from where Indians will be repatriated. Air India spokespersons and authorities refused to answer calls despite numerous attempts by this reporter.
PAY FOR THE FLIGHT The fares will be on par with commercial flights. Tickets from Chicago, San Francisco, Newark and Washington will cost nearly Rs 1 lakh per head. A ticket from London to Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and New Delhi will cost Rs 50,000 per passenger, while tickets from Dubai will cost Rs 13,000 and from Abu Dhabi, Rs 15,000. The cost from Singapore and Malaysia will be Rs 20,000.