A lot of our coverage yesterday was about bringing Indians back home from various countries around the world where Indians are stranded at the moment. However, while evacuation flights are being operated, the plan of the Government initially was to fly the outward leg of the flight to the country empty. For instance, to bring back citizens from London, Mumbai – London will be flown empty.
To this effect, many Indians who work abroad or stay abroad had raised the point that they would also like to go home and be reunited with their families which may be in a different country, or they may have a visa issue which needs them to get back to their country of work quickly and so on.
They were offered their first ray of hope by the Government of India, where the Minister of Civil Aviation, Hardeep S Puri, mentioned that “Those of our citizens who are ordinarily resident abroad, as in those people who have regular jobs outside, who are on long-term visas outside, and who need to get back because they have professional lives outside, we will also be attempting to send them on these flights which will be going to those countries. Again, details of these flights will be available, as these flights are opened up. ”
Here is a clip of the press conference he addressed via video where these remarks were made. I’ve cued it to the exact point of reference for ease.
Also, Standard Operating Procedures were notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs last evening for those who will be arriving in the country on these repatriation flights. There are also notifications on how to have people stranded in India fly back home. Here are some details.
- The Ministry of Civil Aviation, which is taking the lead on this effort, will need to be contacted along with necessary details, including the place of departure and arrival. However, no email address has been notified so far to contact MoCA.
- Only those people will be allowed to fly to the destination countries who are citizens of that country or who hold a visa of at least one-year duration of that country, and Green Card or OCI holders. In case of Medical Emergencies or a death in the family, Indian nationals holding six-month visa can also be allowed.
- Before the tickets of such passengers are confirmed, MoCA will ensure that destination country will allow entry of these people into the other country.
- Cost of travel will be borne by these travellers.
- Only Asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board the flight.
I have been in touch with someone whose family needs to travel due to certain emergencies. I was informed that they had managed to clear the first hurdle and were now being in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs who were coordinating to see if they could board the plane as the other side had to be ready to let them into the country.
However, I cannot guarantee this will work out. Here is a social media post which points in this direction.
@HardeepSPuri @HardeepSPuri sir there is directives from Ministry of Home Affairs regarding NRI’s to leave India by the same flights bringing Indians. We called Air India to apply for permission and ticket. They seems to have no clue please make things clear before it gets late
— Sunita Sharma (@SunitaS46673785) May 6, 2020
Update 1630 hours May 6, 2020
Some of these flights are now being able to be booked on the Air India website. The website is clunky at the moment and going down ever so often, so try the app if you want. For instance, here is my attempt to book the Delhi – San Francisco Empty leg. I am not aware of the other formalities needed at the moment to fly to SFO during the Pandemic, so buy after you have full clarity of the situation.
Update 1 AM, May 7, 2020
Air India has managed to streamline the process to make bookings on these flights. Here is an Air India webpage that gives you the same guidelines as we have enlisted above.
For starts, Air India has indicated that they will only be able to offer passengers to fly on flights to Singapore, United Kingdom and United States of America for now. Passengers will also have to undertake that in case of deportation, the entire cost towards deportation penalty, return fare and cost of quarantine will be borne by the passenger.
You can book your flights on the Air India website using this special link.
I am assuming this process is going to be a lot of a grey area for now, but it should still allow for some people to get out of the country and be united with their families or their jobs which may have suffered as they were stranded in India so far. However, most flights from other countries, such as those from New Zealand, UK, Germany and the USA to India by airlines of the other countries have been flying empty to India so far, so I am not sure if that was on India’s part an unwillingness to let them in or an unwillingness to bring Indians back home. I will update this post if I get more data points.
What do you make out of India’s plans to ship people out of the country on these flights as well?