In the next ten days, India will repatriate as many as 90,000 of its citizens from the UAE. Many chartered and additional ‘Vande Bharat’ flights have been organized for this purpose. In the last two months, about 250,000 Indians have been repatriated on various flights operated by Air India. However, a vast majority of the Indian diaspora is still waiting for a flight home.
Starting from the 20th of June, Air India will, in the next ten days, fly around 35 flights as a part of its Vande Bharat mission. Moreover, the government has approved an additional 80 chartered flights by other airlines. The move comes after many residents urged for more trips and quicker repatriation as India gradually emerges from a strict lockdown.
The Civil Aviation Authority of India and the UAE are working together to allow private airlines like GoAir and SpiceJet to further help in the repatriation process. If this happens, the whole repatriation process might be completed in the next month or so.
The problem and the solution
The UAE is home to more than three million Indians. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, many people have lost their jobs and decided to return home. In total, more than 450,000 Indians have registered with the consulate in Dubai and the embassy in Abu Dhabi to return to their families. Although Air India has done a commendable job up till now, it is not capable of doing everything alone.
The airline has a fleet of 26 widebodies, which are extensively being used on long-haul flights. As far as the middle east is concerned, Air India’s low-cost subsidiary – Air India express is operating most of the flights. However, the airline is restricted to a specific slot and frequency allowance. As a result of this, the Indian government has approved other private Indian carriers to lend-a-hand in making repatriation quicker and easier.
After facing a lot of criticism for having a monopoly over the repatriation mission, the Indian government has now allowed IndiGo, Vistara, and GoAir to fly chartered and repatriation services to the Middle East and South-East Asia. Yesterday, GoAir operated its first service on the Kuwait-Jaipur route.
On the brighter side, Air India is gaining further allowances to operate additional flights to the UAE. These flights are in addition to the already existing flights in the Vande Bharat mission. For example, Air India announced yesterday that it would fly two additional repatriation operations between Goa and Dubai. The service is well welcomed as the passengers are reluctant to fly through one-stop flights via Mumbai or Pune.
In the next few days, many smaller cities will see a non-stop service from the UAE. There is a high demand, as most of the passengers are unwilling to take the risk of flying through COVID-19 hotspots like Delhi and Mumbai.