Monday, December 21, 2020

Suspension of flights from UK: A movie crew in London races against time to get back to India

Lokesh Patel knows how it is to be stuck away from home during a lockdown. Like he was stuck in Mumbai when the national lockdown was announced in March, away from hometown Varanasi. Now, sitting in his room in London, Patel fears getting stranded a second time, after the Indian government suspended all flights from the UK, till December 31.

Patel, who is part of production and accounts department of Zabawa Entertainment and Yashi Films, has been in London for over two months. He is with a crew of 60 people, shooting Marathi and Bhojpuri films in London.

"We were to come back to India in different batches, from December 23 to December 26. But now we are scampering to get tickets for the 22nd. Otherwise, we will be stuck at least till December 31, or even more...who knows? We don't want to walk back all the way to Delhi!" says Patel, recounting the mass migration that India witnessed of people travelling by foot, back to their native places during the lockdown.

The suspension of flights from the UK comes into effect from 23.59 hours, December 22, 2020.

The crew is booked on Virgin Atlantic and Air India flights. "It is going to be a logistical nightmare for us. The next few hours are going to maddening," Patel tells Moneycontrol over a WhatsApp call from London.

He and his colleagues are being helped by, the online travel agency, to reschedule their flights.  "We are thankful that the OTA is not charging any rescheduling fee," he says.

Nevertheless, the tickets are going to be expensive. While the return ticket earlier booked cost Rs 65,000, now just the single ticket back to Delhi from London, is costing the crew Rs 70,000. "But it may still turn out to be cheaper than waiting in London till December 31. Especially, if it gets extended beyond that," says Patel.

21/12/20 Prince Mathews Thomas/

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