Thursday, November 05, 2020

Air India crosses 1 million Vande Bharat passengers

As Air India crossed a milestone recently, flying over one million passengers worldwide under the Vande Bharat Mission, many Indians abroad still find it tough to get to the country in an emergency.

Connecting flights from international airlines to the mission flights have emerged as a problem, too.

Here’s one recent instance: Stuck in Beijing, Manjunath Setty, a Bengalurean, endured weeks of waiting, unable to either attend his father’s funeral or comfort his family in person. Reason: Despite booking tickets, two reputed international airlines cited visa rules to refuse him boarding passes at the last moment.

In a social media post, Setty narrated his ordeal: “Even as dad lost his battle with the coronavirus on Oct 1, I couldn’t even see him for the last time. And I’ve not been able to perform the last rites along with my brothers or comfort my mom or family back home, thanks to the two airlines.” He had traveled from Beijing to Shanghai only to be refused the boarding ticket by Hongkong Airlines on October 11 “because I was taking multiple flights to Singapore, and I had no visa to travel to Singapore."

Canceling the tickets, he booked again. “This time I booked a direct flight to Singapore on a Singapore Airlines flight for October 12. But they refused the boarding ticket because I wasn’t flying to India on a single carrier. I was to fly to Singapore on a Singapore Airlines flight and then take a Vande Bharat repatriation flight to Trichy. Still, they had a problem.”

Setty showed them his father’s death certificate and all the onward flight tickets, but the airline concerned was not convinced. “They refused to issue the boarding pass and I had to cancel all the tickets once again,” he recalled. 

05/11/20 Rasheed Kappan/Deccan Herald

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