India

Vande Bharat Mission: Air India to begin massive evacuation ops

New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) National carrier Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express are all set to embark upon one of the world's largest evacuation operations on Thursday.

Accordingly, the two airlines will at different time slots operate the first ‘special ferry' flights from New Delhi, Cochin and Kozhikode to Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively.

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These flights under India's massive ‘Vande Bharat Mission' are being organised to bring back stranded Indians from abroad.

The two airlines following the laid down Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) which were released on Tuesday have tested their pilots and crews for COVID-19.

The airlines have readied the aircraft type and taken care of all other logistical aspects to embark on this mission.

According to the schedule, which was first reported by IANS on Wednesday evening, Air India will operate the Delhi-Singapore flight on Thursday around 11 p.m. from IGI Airport.

The flight will arrive back to Delhi at 7 a.m. on Friday morning.

Similarly, Air India Express will operate Cochin-Abu Dhabi-Cochin and Kozhikode-Dubai-Kozhikode services.

These will be the first in the 64 ferry services which will be operated by the two airlines from May 7-13.

Besides one-way ferry service, Air India invited passengers, who qualify under the government's new international travel norms to apply for passage from India to various destinations the airline will send its aircraft to conduct evacuation flights.

The development comes as India will commence one of the world's largest air evacuation operations from May 7, when the two airlines will start the first phase of the mission.

As per plans, these two airlines will operate 64 flights in seven days to bring back 14,800 stranded Indians from 12 countries.

Overall, more than 190,000 Indian nationals, who would have to pay a one-way ferry service charge, are expected to be brought back in the airlift operation.

In comparison, three decades ago, Air India led a group of airlines which included Indian Airlines and Aeroflot as well as IAF to rescue an estimated 111,711 Indians from the Gulf, after Iraq invaded Kuwait in the year 1990.

The 59-day operation involved 488 flights and was conducted before the first Gulf war. This time, the exercise will encompass flights to the US in the West to Philippines in the East.

As per the plan, 10 flights will be operated to the UAE to bring Indians from May 7-13, while seven will be sent to the US, seven to Malaysia and five to Saudi Arabia, amongst others.

Lately, despite its precarious financial position, the flag carrier has emerged as one of the few airlines in the world that have evacuated more than 9,000 passengers during the COVID-19 crisis.

The airline to date has carried out massive flight operations to China, Japan and Europe to bring back stranded Indians, mostly students and pilgrims.

Additionally, the airline has been instrumental in repatriating foreigners to Israel, UK and Germany. Moreover, Air India and its subsidiary Alliance Air has reached every corner of the country to supply essential medical equipment.

–IANS

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