National carrier Air India on Wednesday opened bookings for Indians stranded abroad to return home. It has also invited passengers to apply for passage from India, if they qualify under the Centre’s directions.
The repatriation flights will carry a limited number of passengers, who meet a certain eligibility criteria, to destinations such as Singapore, London and cities in the United States. The airline will also bring back Indians stranded abroad. Almost two lakh Indians who are abroad are likely to return in these airlift operations – one of the largest evacuation efforts in the world.
The flights will ply between May 8 and May 14. In these seven days, Air India will bring back a total of 14,800 Indians from 12 countries on 64 flights, according to the plan released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Thursday’s flights include ones from Kochi to Abu Dhabi, Delhi to Singapore, and Calicut to Dubai.
“We would like to inform all those who wish to travel from India to London, Singapore and select destinations in the USA on Air India flights operating between May 8 and May 14 to click on http://www.airindia.in/r1landingpage.htm for booking,” the airline said in a statement. “Passengers are requested to read the eligibility criteria carefully as available on the link and proceed further for booking only if they meet the same.”
However, not all stranded Indians will be brought back home. Students, pregnant women, elderly and those whose visas will expire soon will be given priority, reported ANI. People facing medical emergencies or deaths in the family will also be considered for travel. All passengers will be chosen through an electronic random selection method.
The passenger will bear the cost of travel so the government has fixed the prices. Flights from London to Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Delhi will cost Rs 50,000. For Chicago-Delhi-Hyderabad, the cost will be about Rs 1 lakh. Dhaka to Delhi flights will cost Rs 12,000.
The government has prepared a standard operating protocol for the passengers, involving screening for Covid-19 before taking the flight and after reaching the destination. After reaching the location, the passengers will have to register on the Aarogya Setu app. They will be quarantined for 14 days, either in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on a payment-basis by the concerned state government. They will be tested for Covid-19 after 14 days.
The Centre had evacuated hundreds of Indian citizens from China, Japan, Italy and Iran in March before the government closed the borders and all air travel. On April 30, the Indian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates and the United States began online registration to contact Indian nationals who are stranded in the two countries because of the lockdown.
India has so far recorded 52,952 coronavirus cases and 1,793 deaths.