LONDON: The UK government on Friday announced an additional 12 charter flights to bring over 3,000 UK residents stranded in India in the coronavirus lockdown back to Britain.
The additional flights planned from different parts of India, including from Punjab, Gujarat, West Bengal and South India, follows the seven charter flights announced last week from Goa, Mumbai and New Delhi, taking the total number of people to be brought back on 19 flights to around 5,000.
"We are doing all we can to get thousands of British travellers in India home," said Tariq Ahmad, UK Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
"This is a huge and complex operation which also involves working with the Indian government to enable people to move within India to get on these flights," he said.
The minister confirmed that 317 people landed back at Stansted Airport in the UK from Goa on Thursday, with 1,400 more set to arrive over the weekend from New Delhi and Mumbai.
The 12 additional flights planned next week for London will cover Amritsar on April 13, 17 and 19; Ahmedabad on April 13 and 15; Goa on April 14 and 16 with an additional one via Mumbai on April 18; Thiruvananthapuram via Kochi on April 15; Hyderabad via Ahmedabad on April 17; Kolkata via Delhi on April 19; and Chennai via Bengaluru on April 20.
Jan Thompson, Acting High Commissioner to India, said: "We can confirm 12 more charter flights to bring British travellers back home, on top of the flights already launched.
"We are extremely grateful for the support we are receiving from the government of India on this. Getting people home as quickly as possible remains our absolute priority."
The FCO said that India is a priority country to arrange charter flights from, with a large number of Britons seeking to return and a lack of commercial options, "made more challenging by the size of the country and the restrictions on movement that are in place".
The charter flights are for UK travellers who normally reside in the UK and their direct dependents, with a number of seats reserved for those deemed vulnerable.
To book flights and register their details, British nationals are asked to use the city-specific webpages listed on the FCO's India Travel Advice page.
As movement within India is currently very restricted due to the strict social distancing measures imposed in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the British High Commission in New Delhi said it will contact those who have confirmed seats on the flight with further details regarding transport.
The FCO said that those who are eligible to fly will be sent information on how to get to airports and flight itineraries directly when their seat is confirmed.
Details regarding luggage allowance, flight costs and carriers will be available on the booking portal.
The UK government said it is working with the airline industry and host governments across the world to help bring back British travellers to the UK as part of the plan announced by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last month.
Up to GBP 75 million funding is available for special charter flights to priority countries, focused on helping the most vulnerable travellers.
Besides India, so far flights have brought back British travellers from the Philippines, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nepal, Ghana, Tunisia, Algeria and Peru.