Thursday, April 30, 2020

At Dabolim, six hours of preps for each rescue flight

Panaji: Goa International Airport is used to handling chartered flights filled with tourists coming to enjoy the sunny shores of Goa. But ever since the novel coronavirus pandemic gripped the world, Goa’s lone airport at Dabolim has become accustomed to handling a different kind of chartered flights.
The naval-controlled airport has become the focal point for foreigners to be rescued by their respective nations.
Hours and often days before a flight can land at Goa International Airport, private agencies and government departments have to coordinate to ensure all systems run smoothly and to minimise the risk of infection.

“At a time when the airport is not fully operational, each repatriation flight takes five to six hours of preparation,” said Goa Airport director Gagan Malik. He adds that the airport is functioning at just 30% strength.

Till date, 33 rescue flights have been chartered by 12 different nations, with some more flights planned over the next few days. According to the nodal officer for repatriation of foreigners, of the approximately 58,000 foreigners who have left the country, 6,447 foreigners flew out from Goa. Of these, British tourists formed a major chunk at 42%, while three other countries namely Russia, Germany and Finland accounted for 80% of those who were repatriated.

Given that some airlines do not have a credit facility with the Airports Authority of India, AAI has allowed some countries to operate rescue flights on a cash-and-carry basis. This, explained Malik, means that the Captain of the flight has to pay all the charges with a credit card before being allowed to take-off.
01/04/20 Times of India
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