During the first week, the repatriation will be carried out by Air India, the country’s national airline.
The first repatriation flight from Dubai to Kozhikode, Kerala, will be priced at Dh725, an Air India official has revealed to Khaleej Times. This is contrary to some media reports suggesting that the tickets on repatriation flights will be exorbitantly priced.
The final ticket prices are yet to be announced by the Indian government, but a senior Kerala state minister said flights from the UAE to Kerala are likely to cost around Dh750.
“That is the price we are expecting. The price of the ticket is decided by the Central government and the indication we have is the cost will not exceed Rs15,000 [approximately Dh730],” K.T. Jaleel, a minister in the Kerala’s LDF-led government told Khaleej Times on Tuesday.
But the biggest concern, Jaleel said, is that only those who are tested for Covid should be allowed to board the flights. “There is not much social distancing inside a flight with 200 passengers onboard. It is risky to allow people, especially pregnant women, elderly and those with medical conditions to travel without testing,” said the minister.
On May 7, India will begin what is believed to be the biggest repatriation mission in the country’s history to bring home citizens stranded abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic. Sounding off the concern of returning expats spreading infection, Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Prime Minister Modi asking him to ensure that there will not be “any compromise on observing internationally accepted health protocols.”
“I request you that persons should be tested for Covid-19 infection before they board the aircraft in the best interest of everybody including them,” said the CM in a letter dated Monday, May 5, a copy which is with Khaleej Times.
“Since we have taken time to plan and decide to bring them back on prearranged dates, it will be quite in accordance with logic and reason that the persons travelling in chartered aircraft are subject to Covid-19 tests before boarding itself,” read the letter.
The chief minister added that “the consequences of not doing so will result in people who are carriers of infection travelling along with others. This will further lead to spread of the infection as and when these people come to their homes.”
India will begin the phased repatriation mission from May 7 to 13 with 64 flights that will bring back 15,000 citizens from 12 countries including UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Philippines, Singapore, UK, Bangladesh, Singapore, USA and Oman. Out of 64 flights to bring back stranded Indians from abroad, 15 will land in Kerala, and 11 from nine countries will land in Tamil Nadu, said the minister.
During the first week, the repatriation will be carried out by Air India, the country’s national airline, the minister said. Two Air India flights – one from Abu Dhabi to Kochi and Dubai to Kozhikode, are scheduled for Thursday. Indian ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor earlier told Khaleej Times that the embassy was drawing up a list of passengers on priority basis and that the first seats on the flight would go to those with the most dire need to return.
Air India officials were yet to receive the list as on 5pm, Tuesday. Almost 200,000 Indians have registered with their country’s missions in the UAE to return home amid the coronavirus pandemic that has paused a hitherto-flourishing jobs market. Thousands of visit visa holders are also stranded in the country without jobs.
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