Vande Bharat: Air India to fly more repatriation flights to US, Europe, Gulf

  • The bookings for flights under the third phase of the mission opened on 10 June
  • Private airlines will likely be allowed to participate in the repatriation drive in the next phase of the mission

Rhik Kundu
First Published11 Jun 2020
Vande Bharat Mission has repatriated hundreds of stranded Indians from world over.
Vande Bharat Mission has repatriated hundreds of stranded Indians from world over.(ANI)

NEW DELHI: In the third phase of the government-backed Vande Bharat Mission, Air India and subsidiary Air India Express will have 80 flights to Europe, a similar number of flights to the US and Canada, and about 165 to Gulf countries during 10-30 June, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said.

"Starting immediately, Phase 3 of VBM (Vande Bharat Mission) will have 80 flights to Europe (2 daily flights to London and 2 to other European destinations) between now and 30 June; and 10 more flights to US-Canada in addition to 70 already announced," Puri said in a post on Twitter.

"58 more flights added to evacuate stranded and distressed Indian citizens from Gulf countries between now and 30th June 2020. Starting immediately, (the) number of flights from Gulf under phase-3 of Vande Bharat Mission now increased from originally planned 107 to 165," he added.

The bookings for flights under the third phase of the mission opened on 10 June. However, a large number of tickets for travel from several cities in Europe and the US were unavailable for booking on Wednesday, several people complained on social media website twitter.

"I don't believe everyone stranded abroad can be accommodated in these VBM flights. I tried booking a flight today, my money was deducted, however the flight wasn't booked, it took me 2 hours to speak to an Air India employee about the issue," said twitter user Nidhi Rangari.

"VBM phase 3_From US to India opened to book tickets directly on AirIndia booking site, followed by filling "Undertaking form". But all dates from 15 June to 15 July shows flights unavailable. No booking possible," said another twitter user Nitin Dave.

When contacted an Air India spokesperson said there has been an overwhelming response to these flights. "There may be some isolated cases of inconvenience due to server issues due to heavy demand and hits on our booking portal."

Currently, only national carrier Air India Ltd and its subsidiary Air India Express have repatriated thousands of Indian citizens from world over following the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdowns. Private airlines will likely be allowed to participate in the repatriation drive in the next phase of the mission.

"Vande Bharat is proving to be a mission of hope for stranded & distressed Indians around the world. 2441 Indians returned from Newark, Istanbul, New York, Stockholm, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Doha, Muscat, Dubai & Kuala Lumpur on 9 June," Puri said.

Both the carriers have so far ferried 66,831 Indians from abroad under the Vande Bharat Mission, while 17,180 passengers have travelled outbound flights by the national carrier to various foreign nations, Puri had said on Monday.

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