149 flights to bring back Indians from 31 nations between May 16-22: Sources
The government will operate a total of 149 flights from 31 countries, including from the US, Australia and France, during the second phase of its massive repatriation programme for citizens stranded abroad that will begin on May 16.
People will be allowed to board the flights, including feeder flights in the destination countries and within India, only after being thoroughly screened and provided they are asymptomatic for Covid-19, people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.
Vande Bharat Mission, as the repatriation programme has been dubbed, focused on neighbouring countries such as the Maldives and Bangladesh and West Asian states such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia in the first phase that began on May 7.
A total of 6,037 people have been flown back to India in 31 flights operated by Air India and Air India Express in the past five days. The civil aviation ministry is coordinating with the external affairs ministry and state governments for the operation.
The maximum number of flights during the second phase will be from the US (13), the UAE (11), Canada (10), Saudi Arabia and the UK (nine each) and Malaysia and Oman (eight each).
There will also be flights from Kazakhstan and Australia (seven each), Ukraine, Qatar, Indonesia and Russia (six each), the Philippines (five), France, Singapore, Ireland and Kyrgyzstan (four each), Kuwait and Japan (three each), Georgia, Germany, Tajikistan, Bahrain and Armenia (two each), and Thailand, Italy, Nepal, Belarus, Nigeria and Bangladesh (one each).
The aircraft will fly to destinations across India, including Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Karnataka, Punjab, Odisha, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir. The maximum number of inbound flights are to Kerala (31), Delhi (22) and Karnataka (17).
During the first phase of Vande Bharat Mission that will end on May 15, a total of 64 flights from 12 countries are expected to bring back some 15,000 people to 14 destinations.
“Each and every function in this massive air evacuation mission strictly adheres to the safety and hygiene protocol laid down by the government and the DGCA. MoCA, AAI and Air India leave no stone unturned to prioritise the safety of passengers, the crew and ground handling staff in these sensitive medical evacuation missions,” an official statement said.
The people cited above said Indian missions will identify people with compelling reasons for returning to the country from among those who have registered for the repatriation flights. The costs have ranged from about Rs 15,500 for a flight from West Asian countries to Rs 50,000 for a flight from the UK and Rs 100,000 for a flight from the US.