Saturday, May 09, 2020

First ‘Vande Bharat’ Air India flight from London takes off for Mumbai with 326 Indians

London: The first Air India flight from the UK, as part of the Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indians stranded overseas due to the coronavirus lockdown, took off from London’s Heathrow Airport on Saturday with 326 passengers to Mumbai.

The packed flight took off with Indian students and tourists, who were seen queuing with their luggage at the airport from early on Saturday as they prepared for the journey home.
Each one of them underwent temperature tests before boarding and face 14 days of quarantine at a hotel or other location designated by the Maharashtra government on landing, with those details to be made available on arrival in Mumbai in the early hours of Sunday.

While there is no social distancing possible on the packed flight, Air India is providing a kit for all passengers confirmed to fly, with meals, snacks, sanitizer, mask and gloves.

Finally going back to India! Although it was at the last moment but I was lucky enough to get the ticket of the first flight to India under Vande Bharat Mission, said a relieved Indian student, who was part of a group of seafarers that came to the UK for an examination.
We got continuous updates from NISAU (National Indian Students and Alumni Union) and ISWAN (International Seafarers’ Welfare Assistance Network) looking after seafarers stuck in the UK. Thanks to all the representatives who worked tirelessly in coordination with the Indian High Commission, said the student, who did not wish to be named.

The flight marks the first of seven Air India routes organised by the Indian government from London’s Heathrow Airport to six Indian cities over the next week Mumbai (Saturday and Tuesday), Bengaluru (Sunday), Hyderabad (Monday), Ahmedabad (Wednesday), Chennai (Thursday) and New Delhi (Friday).

So far people travelling to Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Mumbai have received calls. And there are a lot of other guys who are waiting for flight schedules to their own states, said Akhil Dharmaraj, a marine engineer from Kerala enrolled at the South Tyneside College in Tyne and Wear in north-east England who was due to fly back to India after giving a management level exam in March.
09/05/20 Aditi Khanna/Print
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