Air India has been operating repatriation flights to bring back Indians from abroad for about three weeks now, having gone near and far to facilitate the effort. However, we know that even by the latest numbers only 30,000 people have been brought back to India and there will be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of flights needed to bring back those who want to return to the country given the number of people who need to come back to the country.
Mission Vande Bharat flies high.
Till 25th May, more than 30,000 people have returned to India on 158 flights from different countries & more than 10,000 people have flown out of India on 164 flights.
Another 49,000 people will be able to fly till mid June 2020.@PIB_India
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) May 26, 2020
While initially this effort was being handled by Air India and Air India Express exclusively, the Government of India continued to say that they will take the helping hand of other airlines in the coming days while making Air India, Air India Express run point on the flights. Only recently was it announced that India’s other private carriers will be allocated some flights to the countries in the neighbourhood to operate flights. IndiGo is the only one sharing details at the moment.
.@IndiGo6E has been authorized to operate 97 Kerala repatriation flights to the Middle East. the flights will be operated between Kerala & Saudi Arabia, Doha, Kuwait and Muscat. IndiGo has been granted nearly half of the total 180 repatriation flights allotted to private airlines
— Ajay Awtaney (@LiveFromALounge) May 21, 2020
So imagine my surprise when a regular reader sent me a message to track a KLM flight, KL877 operated on May 26, 2020, from Amsterdam to Mumbai, which brought home Indians stuck in Amsterdam. KLM has been operating repatriation flights from both Mumbai and Delhi to take back European citizens to Europe, via Amsterdam. In fact, the German stuck at Delhi Airport was sent on one of these flights.
However, it is for the first time I have seen one of these flights being used to bring home stranded Indians back to the country as well. For that matter, I was told by someone that these flights to take home other nationalities from India were operating empty because they were not allowed to bring Indians home (Delta, United, British Airways, Air New Zealand, Qantas are some airlines which have operated flights to India from their respective countries to take home their citizens back to their country).
So I scanned the list of Vande Bharat mission flights that I’d posted for this update, and even the official Ministry of External Affairs website. There was no mention of KLM operating a flight to Mumbai for the Vande Bharat Mission. Then it turned out, KLM had indeed somehow convinced the Embassy in the Netherlands, or perhaps the Indian Embassy in the Netherlands reached out to them to take some Indians home on their empty leg flying out from Amsterdam Schipol.
Breaking News: First group of around 200 stranded Indians in the Netherlands will start travelling back to India tomorrow on a special KLM flight to Mumbai. Details of ticketing will be sent this afternoon by email to short-listed passengers from Maharashtra & adjoining states. pic.twitter.com/T90Xxfqzsp
— IndiainNetherlands (@IndinNederlands) May 25, 2020
Indian passengers as part of #VandeBharatMission fulfilling the formalities before they board on the special evacuation flight by @KLM to Mumbai @MEAIndia @venurajamony @DDNewslive @ani_digital pic.twitter.com/9lPzBqAYIT
— IndiainNetherlands (@IndinNederlands) May 26, 2020
This is the email that selected passengers received to confirm their booking on this flight.
This flight also coordinated with the KLM flights from Mexico to bring stranded Indians from Mexico and Peru home.
KLM will operate KL878 from Mumbai to Amsterdam on May 28, 2020, taking back those who want to go back to the NL.
India needs as much help as it can get to bring back it’s citizens home from various countries. In a press conference on May 22, 2020, the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry had clarified their stance that only Indian carriers will be used to repatriate to India. So, it just makes a lot of sense to allow other airlines to fly back Indians as well where they can. I hope this one-off flight is a step in this direction, and the Indian Government will be allowing as many airlines to bring back home as many stranded Indians as possible in the quickest time frame, including the Indian carriers.
Are there any other repatriation flights which flew with Indians back home, apart from Air India flights so far which I seemed to have missed?
(HT: Balaji VenkataRaman)
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