Air India will fly to Auckland, New Zealand, in the first week of June to repatriate Indian nationals stranded there.
According to reliable sources, this will enable some 225 passengers to fly back home to India.
This follows the planned Phase One of repatriation of Indians stuck in Australia. Indian Link had broken this story about the several flights from Australia to India last week.
These flights are part of the Government of India’s ongoing Vande Bharat Mission, which is repatriating nearly 1.8 million citizens stranded abroad due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The first flight out of Australia is scheduled to take off from Sydney airport at 9:45am on Thursday 21 May. Though the plane’s capacity is 256 seats, only 225 passengers will be on board, with the extra seats partitioned off in case of passengers becoming ill on the flight.
It is believed that all 1,575 passengers on the seven flights announced so far have now been contacted, first by the Indian High Commission in Canberra and then by Air India for ticketing purposes.
Considering that these are special flights which require an entirely different set of logistics to put in place, the emphasis has been on social responsibility and not profitability, sources revealed.
All travellers will be given masks for their protection, and medical personnel will check the temperatures of every passenger before boarding. To minimise contact between the crew and the passengers, packaged food and water will be placed on the seats for passengers. Upon arrival in India, passengers will be checked again for any evidence of COVID-19 before quarantining in their hotel of choice.
According to official sources, flying to Australia and New Zealand has been a massive commitment by Air India. Flight time to Australia for instance, is equivalent to four flights to Dubai – which has a far higher number of Indian nationals waiting to return home – so the resources that have gone into the Oceania flights are considerable.
Many readers from New Zealand and Fiji have been commenting on Indian Link’s social media platforms about the difficulties of being stranded at their ports. Relief is finally on the horizon for NZ-based travellers. With New Zealand as Phase Two of the repatriation flights, it will be a matter of time before flights are sent to Fiji to pick up citizens from Fiji.
Meanwhile, back in Australia, many people who had applied to be on the Air India flights have been left disappointed at not being called up. Priority was given to aged passengers and others with compelling reasons to travel. It also must be noted that certain states (eg Maharashtra) have closed their borders, and so those intending to fly there could not be accommodated.
It is expected that the next lot of flights from Australia to India would commence in the second week of June, but that still has to be confirmed. This will depend on how Phase One of the flights (21 – 28May) go and related experiences for all parties – the officials and passengers.
Indian Link will update you as and when more information comes to hand.