During the last few weeks, Air India has conducted multiple special flights to bring stranded Indians to the country from Coronavirus-affected cities such as Wuhan in China and Rome in Italy.
It has emerged as one of the frontline warriors in the fight against Coronavirus. From bringing back thousands of stranded Indians from Wuhan, Japan, Italy and Iran to bringing critical medical equipment from abroad, the much-maligned national carrier has earned praise.
Air India is now planning to conduct three special flights to London from April 8-10 to repatriate Canadians who are stranded in India amid a 21-day lockdown imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic, senior airline officials said on Monday.
Scheduled to operate 18 such flights from March 31, 2020, the national carrier has flown back German nationals to Frankfurt and Israeli nationals to Tel Aviv.
Since the lockdown was imposed, the national carrier has conducted multiple flights across India to transport essential cargo such has coronavirus testing kits, medicines and food.
“The government of India has taken this initiative on the request of respective embassies. On April 4, flights to London and Paris were being operated carrying foreigners,” an official spokesperson from Air India said.
Keeping in mind a number of foreign tourists who are still stranded in India, the airline might start more charter flights if the foreign governments make a request to its Indian counterpart.
A Tourism Ministry report suggests that over 750 foreign tourists are still stranded in the country and they are in touch with the Ministry through its recently launched website www.strandedinindia.com.
“If the government asks us to operate more flights, we will definitely do,” the AI spokesperson said.
A charter cargo flight was also operated from Delhi to Shanghai on April 4 to fly in vital medical cargo from China to India.
The Health Ministry has already confirmed that the country received a supply of 1.70 lakh Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) coveralls from China.
“Air India is also scheduled to operate some more cargo flights between Delhi and Shanghai till April 9. These flights will bring critical medical equipment to India,” an AI press release said.
As part of India's war against Coronavirus, the Civil Aviation Ministry had launched 'Lifeline Udan' flights on March 26 for the transport of medical and essential supplies across the country and beyond.
As part of this mission, Air India and Alliance Air operated 79 charter flights to ferry medical equipment and other items essential to fight the corona pandemic from March 26 to April 3.
The flights, being operated regularly between the metro hubs -- Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai -- to the remote spoke destinations of the Northeast and other far-flung areas of the country, are supplying medical equipment and other essential items.
In view of the ongoing crises triggered by the pandemic, Air India has already announced a 10 per cent cut in allowances for every employee, except cabin crew, for the coming three months.
(Additional inputs from agencies)