Coronavirus | Germany, U.Ok. search Air India flights to evacuate electorate


Germany and the U.K. have approached the Indian government expressing their interest to charter Air India’s flights to facilitate the return of their nationals stranded in India following travel restrictions to curb the spread of the COVID-19, according to several officials.

Between March 31 and April 3, the Air India will operate nine flights to Frankfurt with its 256-seater Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. These special flights come at a time when India has banned all commercial flights, i.e. domestic and international, until April 14.

The Air India will operate five flights on March 31 to Frankfurt, of which four will be from Mumbai and one from New Delhi. Over the next three days, there will be four flights from Mumbai. It will first bring Germans from various parts including Goa, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram and to Delhi or Mumbai before undertaking the long-haul flight.

The Canadian High Commission, too, is exploring ways to help Canadians in India return to their country.

“The High Commission of Canada is aware that there are Canadians currently located in many parts of India seeking to return home. The High Commission is actively working to identify possible solutions for Canadians wishing to return from India to Canada. Updates regarding departure options are shared with our Canadian consular clients as they become available,” the High Commission said in response to a specific query.

Officials also said there was a request to operate charters to London to enable the U.K. citizens to return to their homes and it was under consideration.

A British High Commission spokesperson said, “The Foreign Secretary has spoken with the Indian External Affairs Minister and we are working urgently on a plan to get our people back home. This is an absolute priority for us and we hope to be able to share news very soon.”

So far, the Air India has operated a special flight on the request of Israel helping nearly 300 of its citizens to return to Tel Aviv.

The Indian High Commission in the U.K. wouldn’t confirm reports that there were Air India flights planned to bring back Indians from London. In response to messages circulating about Air India flights scheduled to fly from London to New Delhi and Mumbai in early April, the High Commission in London posted on Twitter, “Indian High Commission notes with dismay that some rumours are being spread even in such trying times. We request all not to pay attention to rumours.”

A senior official here told The Hindu that there were “no plans to evacuate Indians at present” and that much would depend on quarantine facilities available for all.

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