While AI in the first phase is operating 64 flights to 12 countries, including six in the Gulf, to fly back Indians from there, the airline can take bookings only for those destinations that are allowing people to come in. The Gulf countries, Singapore, Malaysia and Bangladesh are among those who are not letting in non-citizens.
With lakhs of Indians stranded abroad and scores here desperate to get back to their homes or work in foreign countries, the aviation ministry website crashed for some hours on Wednesday due to the volumes of hits it is getting from people to know about the special flights. Air India has had to push back the departure of its flights supposed to leave on Wednesday after the home ministry protocol issued Tuesday evening said, “Only those crew and staff, who are tested Covid-19 negative, will be allowed to operate these flights/ ships.”
#FlyAI : Important Update for passengers regarding evacuation flights from India. Please visit… https://t.co/GcgI3ychZE
— Air India (@airindiain) 1588785761000
The home ministry has also issued rules to specify who can fly out of India on these special flights. “Only those persons shall be allowed to travel to the destination countries, who are citizens of that country; who hold visa of at least one year duration of that country, and green card or OCI (overseas citizens of India) card holder. In cases of medical emergency or death in the family, Indian nationals holding six month visa can also be allowed.”
Said a senior AI official, “People wanting to fly out can buy tickets online.” AI on Wednesday said it “takes no responsibility whatsoever in case your travel is rejected at any time for not meeting the laid down eligibility criteria.”
About the delay in starting operations, an AI official said, “Our crew is corona free but they are now required to carry a test report certifying thus. The tests are being done and will take 15 hours. As a result, the Delhi-San Francisco flight that was to depart Wednesday 3.30am was among the flights that had to be deferred.”
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In all 17 flights are scheduled to operate from Delhi and Mumbai to New York (Newark airport), San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, London and Singapore in the May 7-14 period. According to AI schedule, Delhi-San Francisco flights are on May 8 and 12 with one-way fares of Rs 1.4 lakh, Rs 3.03 lakh and Rs 4.01 lakh in economy, business and first, respectively. Delhi-Chicago (May 10 and 14) and Delhi-Washington (May 11) have roughy the same fares. Delhi-Singapore (May 7 and 11) has one-way fares of Rs 25,456; Rs 29,131 and Rs 48,661 in economy, business and first, respectively.
Delhi-London (May 10 and 11) has fares of Rs 71,000-82,000; Rs 1.9 lakh and Rs 2.4-2.9 lakh, respectively, in the three cabins. Mumbai-London (May 8 and 12) has fares of Rs 71,800-83,000; Rs 1.76 lakh and Rs 2.3-2.8 lakh, respectively, in the three classes. Mumbai-Newark (May 9) fares are Rs 1.35 lakh, Rs 2.9 lakh and Rs 4.1 lakh, respectively. The foreign ministry has entrusted 17 of its senior officials with the responsibility of ensuring proper coordination with states and also other Union ministries and Indian missions abroad.
With the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ to bring back Indians expected to gain momentum over the weekend, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla held a meeting with chief secretaries to review the situation on Wednesday.