As India eases lockdown after almost two-and-half-month, Air India has begun ticket bookings under the phase-3 of Mission Vande Bharat for 75 special repatriation flights from Friday afternoon onwards for the destinations like Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Newark, Vancouver and Toronto. The flight will be operating between 9 June and 30 June. Those who are stranded in India due to the lockdown, have already started booking their flights for the United States and Canada on these outbound flights, with the first flight starting on 9 June since some foreign airlines have already started evacuation and are planning to operate more flights.
“Normal International civil aviation operations will only start when they can. Right now most of our metro cities are under some form of restrictions due to which people from other cities cannot travel to catch flights and we also have requirements for mandatory quarantine on arrival,” Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri wrote on Twitter.
“We have to wait for the domestic operations to touch about 50-60% and consider the behaviour of the virus and its spread to fully lift these restrictions and Lockdown. Till then, the flights under Vande Bharat Mission are facilitating both inbound & outbound international passengers,” the minister further added.
The second phase had about 180 flights and the first, which lasted from May 7 to May 15, had 64 flights. While the first phase saw about 15,000 Indians coming back home, the second phase had brought back almost 40,000 citizens till June 3. The third phase of Mission Vande Bharat, repatriating Indians from foreign countries, will begin from June 10th to July 1st and will cover many remote regions. About 40,000 persons are expected to be repatriated under this phase on 337 international flights from 31 countries, including 54 from the US, 24 from Canada, 11 flights from 6 African countries.
Vande Bharat Mission said to be the largest repatriation exercise, expected to bring back over two lakh Indians stranded across the world since the lockdown was announced in March. Earlier, Civil Aviation Minister Hardest Singh Puri had said that the international operations may start much before August.