We bring to you an update on India’s repatriation mission – Vande Bharat.
Vande Bharat Mission Continues
The fifth phase of India’s repatriation mission, Vande Bharat, started on August 1. Under this phase, both Indian nationals, as well as the permitted category of foreigners, will be allowed to fly. Flights are being operated from the UK, USA, Canada, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries etc. The number of flights planned in this phase is eight hundred and sixty (860), though more flights will be added as the time progresses. The bulk of the flights are from the gulf countries.
MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
As we begin dovetailing phase 4 into phase 5, (a total of) 8,78,921 Indian nationals have returned as on July 29, 2020. A total of 1,07,452 Indians have returned from Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Pakistan and Bangladesh by land borders,”
Repatriation flights are also being operated by United Airlines, Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, Emirates and Etihad. More foreign airlines will be permitted as soon as “Bubble” agreements are in place the respective governments.
‘Bubble’ air travel arrangements are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at operating limited flights during the pandemic. The agreements are reciprocal, and both countries enjoy similar benefits.
It may be noted that the Government of India has further suspended all International flights till August 31. The only way for people to travel is through the repatriation flights as permitted by the governments.
Private Airline Participation Increases
Last month, the Indian Government had permitted Indian private carries to operate repatriation flights.
Spicejet signed up for the operation but did not have a suitable aircraft for long-haul operations. For this reason, the airline has taken an A330-900 on lease from Hi Fly, Portugal. The twin-aisle aircraft being used by SpiceJet has a configuration of 353 economy and 18 business class seats.
The aircraft operated its maiden flight on August 3, bringing back 269 nationals from Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam to Bangalore and then on to Hyderabad.
Ajay Singh, Chairman & Managing Director, SpiceJet said –
“SpiceJet is immensely proud to operate its maiden long-haul repatriation flight from Amsterdam to India and bring back home our fellow Indian nationals. This is a historic moment for SpiceJet and Indian aviation.”
The other primary low-cost carrier, Indigo, has a fleet of single-aisle A320s. Till mid-July, Indigo had operated 51 international flights transporting around 75,000 passengers. The airline has been operating repatriation flights from Gulf countries. The airline is continuing international operations in Phase-5.
GoAir said it has repatriated 37,990 Indians and flown more than 200 international flights till July end. The airline had commenced repatriation flights on June 10.
As life limps back to normal, international flight services are slowly resuming. Countries are still employing a cautious approach to permitting international travel. For now, travelling under restrictive conditions is becoming the new normal.
When will international travel get back to normal? We look forward to your views in the comments section.