Thursday, August 13, 2020

First 4 charter flights to Kolkata unlikely to take off

Kolkata: The first set of charter flights that were to bring back Kolkatans stranded in the Gulf have been cancelled in the absence of approval from the authorities. The cancellations have left families anxiously waiting for repatriation to the city in the lurch with no clarity on when they can take a flight back home.

Sources in the travel trade industry said all four charter flights — which were announced after the state government issued a revised SOP on international flight operations — were cancelled in the absence of a no-objection certificate. The flights were scheduled on August 13 (Dubai), 14 (Abu Dhabi), 15 (Sharjah) and 18 (Muscat).

Repatriation flights during the pandemic require the nod of the Indian embassy in the country of origin, external affairs ministry and state government. A state government official said it had not cancelled any NOC, but did not clarify if an NOC had been issued to any of these flights.

The lack of information on why the flights — the first batch in several months — would not be able to operate even after the revised SOP issued by the state government left Indians hailing from Bengal frustrated in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Muscat. While Indians from other parts of the country have been able to board Vande Bharat flights and return, absence of flights to Kolkata has stranded them.

When the state government issued a revised SOP on international flights on August 6, stating that it would allow only chartered flights that carried passengers who had tested negative shortly prior to departure, it had given hopes despite higher fares. With the flight cancellations, its despair again.

While IndiGo was to operate the three flights originating in UAE, Air Oman was to operate from Muscat.

“We aren’t sure about the reason behind the cancellations. There has been a fresh requisition for a flight from Cambodia on August 16,” said an IndiGo official.

Passengers booked on the flight to Kolkata from Muscat said they had been informed by Bahwan Travels, the company that had booked the charter, that the flight had not been issued an NOC by the Bengal government.
13/08/20 Tamaghna Banerjee & Subhro Niyogi/Times of India
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