Air India to take foreigners back in 18 special flights

NEW DELHI:
Air India will operate 18 charter flights to fly back German, French, Irish and Canadian nationals during the lockdown.

While the Germans and French will be flown to Frankfurt and Paris (AI’s regular stations), the other two nationalities will be taken to London Heathrow from where
Canada and Ireland will make further travel arrangements.

“We have been approached by some countries through their embassies in Delhi to operate special charters to fly their citizens back home. AI has signed contracts with four countries to operate 18 evacuation flights from India to fly their citizens out —
Germany (10 flights), Canada (6), France (1) and Ireland (1). These flights out of India will be carrying their citizens On the way back to India, the aircraft will not have any cargo or any passenger (ferry flight),” Air India chairman Rajiv Bansal said.

These special flights started on Wednesday with German nationals flying back to Frankfurt.

Bansal added that AI has got China’s nod to operate cargo flights to ferry medical equipment from there to India. “We have got approval to operate Delhi-Shanghai-Delhi on Saturday and Sunday (April 4 and 5). We are awaiting their clearance to operate cargo-only flights to Shanghai next Monday to Thursday (April 6, 7, 8 and 9). Delhi-Hong Kong-Delhi cargo flights have also been approved by China. These flights will bring medical equipment,” said Bansal.

From March 26 to Wednesday (April 1), India had seen 85 flights — 62 by Air India Group, 15 by the IAF and 8 by private airlines — within the country to ferry 76 tonnes of medical equipment and other items essential to fight the corona pandemic. “On Thursday morning, an aircraft operated from Hindon IAF base (near Delhi) to Leh carrying vegetables,” aviation ministry joint secretary Usha Padhee said.

The DGCA on Wednesday allowed passenger configuration aircraft to operate all-cargo flights. Now the number of these flights will accordingly increase.

“Airlines will be allowed to operate cargo flights where they will carry our essential medical equipment free and their cargo on commercial terms,” said aviation minister H S Puri. International airlines like Emirates and
Qatar Airways have also announced cargo flights to India.

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