Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Are Air India repatriation fares affordable? Here's what passenger accounts, data tell

Ramesh Warrier's* plight had been documented before. He and his mother had gone to the US in February to visit his sister. In April, he as wondering, "Why can't the Indian government arrange a flight for us?"

Soon after, the government started flights — branded as Vande Bharat Mission in customary pomp — to repatriate Indians like Warrier. But Warrier and his mother are stuck in the US more than a month after the largest repatriation exercise in the world took off.

"It's the fare. I will need to pay over Rs 1 lakh for just one ticket. The flight to the US had cost Rs 84,000 for two tickets. Given my financial condition, I don't have any option but to wait out till government allows all the airlines to start operating international flights and fares get adjusted," said Warrier.

The Vande Bharat flights are almost exclusively run by government-owned Air India.
The Indian government suspended international flights in March, just before bringing to a halt all domestic operations. While domestic flights resumed on May 25, international flights may not restart before August or September.
Armaan Ahuja* is in a similar position as Warrier. He has been stranded in Lisbon for two months. He could take the Vande Bharat Mission flight from Amsterdam and get back to India. But he too finds the flight, back to Delhi, too expensive at 500 euro.

"The return tickets had cost me Rs 50,000. The flights were via Dubai. Now for just one way on the Air India flight, I have to pay that much," said Ahuja, who has already overshot his budget for the stay in Lisbon and is looking to save money.

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