Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Beating the midnight deadline: Superstar's family flying charter plane from London to Mumbai

New Delhi: A luxury business jet has been chartered to fly back the family of a Bollywood superstar from the UK to India before the deadline for suspending passenger flights between the two countries till the year-end. A leading producer-director is learnt to have chartered a Qatar Executive jet to fly the megastar’s wife and other family members from London Luton Airport to Mumbai.

“The aircraft belonging to Qatar Executive, the charter arm of Qatar Airways Group, is expected to touch down in Mumbai just before the Tuesday-Wednesday midnight deadline. All the required clearances are in place for the same,” said highly placed sources.

Qatar Executive — which promises “ Ultimate luxury, highest levels of personalised service and comfort, privacy and convenience through flexible and individual travel to any place in the world” — has four top-of-the-line of jets in its fleet: Gulfstream G650ER and G500 and Global 5000 and XRS.

The superstar’s family is likely to undertake the 7,200-km journey on the 13-seater Bombardier Global Express XRS which has a range of 11,400 km with a maximum speed of 950 kmph. This aircraft is listed on Qatar Executive website for “empty leg flight” — a sector on which the aircraft is supposed to fly after dropping passengers and is therefore available for charter by others — to take off from Mumbai at 9.30 am on Wednesday for Doha.

Qatar Airways Group did not comment on this story.

The government had on Monday afternoon announced its decision to stop passenger flights between India and the UK from Tuesday-Wednesday midnight to the year-end and it will review in coming days whether the same needs to be extended depending on the situation there. Four airlines fly between India and UK under the air bubble — Air India, Vistara, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Soon after the flight suspension was announced, AI and Vistara decided to bring the crew operating the India-UK sectors back on the return flights on the same aircraft as leaving them in London for a prolonged layover till flights resume made neither commercial sense nor safety-wise due to the Covid situation there.

“Our flights to India were completely booked. With 12-13 crew members needed to be accommodated on the flight back, we were not able to accommodate some passengers,” said AI sources.

With the flights almost full, hiring a charter to return to India before the flight suspension deadline was the only alternate for the super rich.

22/12/20 Times of India

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