Private airlines likely to be part of repatriation mission’s phase four1 min read . Updated: 04 Jun 2020, 11:47 PM IST
All major airlines including IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir and Vistara have offered their services to the government for the repatriation flights
Private carriers are likely to soon start repatriating stranded Indian nationals from West Asia, said two people with direct knowledge of the matter.
The government recently met representatives of private airlines to discuss the possibility of them joining the flagship Vande Bharat Mission, said the first person cited above, requesting anonymity.
All major airlines including IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir and Vistara have offered their services to the government for the repatriation flights.
Currently, only national carrier Air India Ltd and its subsidiary Air India Express have repatriated thousands of Indian citizens from various nations following the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdowns in several nations.
“The government has been actively planning to involve private airlines for repatriation exercises. This will likely happen soon, probably during the fourth phase of the Vande Bharat Mission (which started 7 May)," said the second person, who too requested anonymity.
“The destinations in the Middle East where private airlines will be allowed to carry out repatriation exercises are currently being worked on by the government," the person said adding that some of the Middle East countries where private Indian carriers could be asked to carry out repatriation exercises include United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.
Private airlines in India mostly use a fleet of narrow-body planes comprising Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, which could be tapped to fly non-stop to destinations that are ideally three to five hours away from India. IndiGo also has few Airbus A321 planes in its fleet which can fly to slightly longer destinations.
Air India used its wide-body planes like Boeing 777 and Boeing 787, while Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, has recently taken delivery of a Boeing 787 jet, and is expected to add several more such planes in the coming months.
When contacted, a spokesperson for the civil aviation ministry declined to comment. Spokespersons of IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir, and AirAsia India were not available for comments.
“We are in the process of evaluating and finalizing and will share once the plans firm up," a Vistara spokesperson said.