Thursday, May 07, 2020

Two Air India flights carrying 354 Indian nationals take off from UAE

Dubai: Two special flights from the UAE carrying a total of 354 Indian nationals left for Kerala on Thursday, as India began its biggest ever repatriation exercise to bring back its citizens stranded abroad amidst the international travel lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

The Air India Express flight IX452 carrying 177 passengers from Abu Dhabi to Kochi took off at 5.07 pm (local time). Few minutes later, the Dubai-Kozhikode flight took off at 5.46 pm (local time) as part of the repatriation exercise named 'Vande Bharat Mission'.

"#VandeBharatMission begins! The first flight with 177 passengers takes off from Abu Dhabi to Kochi. #TeamIndia will continue with its tireless efforts to bring Indians home," ministry of external affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava tweeted.
Passengers started arriving at Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports as early as 9.30am on Thursday. Some of the passengers were carrying the Indian flag.

Indian Ambassador Pavan Kapoor was seen enquiring about the procedure from some of the passengers undergoing medical screening at the Abu Dhabi airport.

"Great to see the #VandeBharatMission Abu Dhabi Kochi special flight IX452 taking off from the @AUH. Thanks all for cooperation and support for making it possible," the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi tweeted.
"Kudos to all the passengers for waiting patiently for their turn for medical screening and many thanks to all the frontline health workers and airport staff for extending full support," it said earlier.

Captain Rizvin Nasser, 26, an alumnus of the Sharjah Indian School, is co-pilot of flight IX452.
Minutes after the departure of the first flight, India's second repatriation flight from the UAE also took off.

"Air India Express Flight left for Kozhikode with 177 passengers on boardwith last passenger Ajith was added to attend final rites of her mother after one passenger dropped out due to immigration issue. A big satisfaction to serve all," the Consulate General of India in Dubai tweeted.
Ajith Pullanikotti, an IT professional, made it to the flight at the last minute to be able to attend the last rites of his mother who died two days ago. He was the only son.

"I have been trying to go for weeks so that I could be by my mother's side. Unfortunately, she had to breathe her last without me being next to her. I really hope I can make it today,” Ajith said.

There are no suspected COVID-19 cases among the first batch of passengers being repatriated on Thursday.

"All of them have cleared the tests,” Consul General of India in Dubai Vipul was quoted as saying.

He said the criteria of passengers' selection included medical cases, loss of jobs, pregnant women and senior citizens. Those with complications and financial issues were also picked.

The last two rows of seats in both the flights are not occupied. In case of any health issues, passengers can use them.
07/05/20 PTI/Times of India
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