National carrier Air India will operate 18 flights for foreigners stranded in India amid novel coronavirus outbreak, chairman and managing director Rajiv Bansal said on Thursday.
In a video press conference led by union aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Bansal said Germany, Canada, France, and Ireland have approached Air India to operate these flights to ferry their citizens to their respective countries.
Theses countries have requested Air India to operate these flights amid the spread of COVID-19, which has affected over 160 nations in the world. In India, there are 1,965 total positive cases so far and the government maintains that the disease is still in the local transmission phase. Italy, Spain, the US, and Iran are among the worst hit so far.
The flights will operate on a commercial basis to take the stranded citizens from India to their destinations and will return empty without any cargo or passenger, Bansal added.
It is important to note that India effectively banned the entry of all passenger scheduled International flights from March 23 and the resumption of international flights will be approved on a case by case basis, Puri said today.
While this will be the first flight to ferry foreigners from India, Air India has already operated evacuation flights for 1,000-1,500 Indians stranded in Japan, Wuhan, Iran, and Italy.
Air India has also sought approval to operate cargo flights to Shanghai and has already received permission to operate cargo flights between Delhi and Bangkok.
Air India and its regional arm Alliance Air have already operated 62 relief flights at minimum rates to ferry essential items and medical equipment across the country.
In the case of salaries not being credited to the accounts of pilots, Air India clarified that the flying allowance for the month of January has been credited into the accounts of pilots today.
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