Top 10 Evacuation Missions Carried Out By Air India, Since 1990

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Air India, the flag carrier airline of India, currently owned by Tata Sons, has been the key airline when it comes to evacuating Indians from foreign countries during times of conflict.

The airline also holds the record for the biggest evacuation of people by a civil airliner, which is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. The recognition came in honor of the evacuation of more than 1 lakh civilians from Kuwait during Iraq’s attack on the country in 1990.

Following are some of the key evacuation programs carried out by Indian national carriers since 1990

1. Aug–Oct 1990 Airlift of Indians From Kuwait

The 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait was carried out from 13 August 1990 to 20 October 1990 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Air India helped evacuate 170,000 people by the civil airline. The operation was carried out before the Persian Gulf War in 1990 to evacuate Indian expatriates from Kuwait.

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2. May 1994 During Yemeni Civil War

Between May–July 1994 a civil war in Yemen was waged between the armed forces of the former Northern and Southern Yemeni states and their supporters. Amid the war situation, Air India operated special flights from Mumbai to Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, via Muscat, to rescue Indians stranded in the conflict-torn country.

3. Sep 1996 Operation Amnesty Airlift

Air India embarked on ‘Operation Amnesty Airlift’ to bring back Indians who did not have valid permits from the United Arab Emirates. Indian missions issued more than 45,844 emergency certificates to Indians seeking to leave before the expiration of an amnesty period for illegal foreigners.

4. Oct 1997 Evacuation From Saudi Arabia

In October 1997, Air India has evacuated stranded Indian citizens who were compelled to leave Saudi Arabia before the amnesty deadline expired.

5. Jul 2006 Operation Sukoon

Operation Sukoon. Naval evacuation to air bridge from Cyprus. Land evacuation for 100 via bus to Damascus. INS Mumbai, INS Betwa, INS Brahmaputra and auxiliary tanker, and INS Shakti. IAF transport aircraft landed in Beirut with relief.

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Air India has also operated chartered flights to bring back Indians from Lebanon via Larnaca in Cyprus.

6. Mar 2011 Evacuation From Libya

In March 2011, Air India has operated special flights to evacuate 11,345 stranded Indians from Cairo, following political turmoil in Egypt.

The evacuation include 4 Chartered flights by Air India, 2 commercial flights by JetAirways and Kingfisher Airlines also 2 passenger ships. IAF: IL-76 (Sirte to Cairo: 186 evacuees).

7. Aug 2014 Evacuation From Libya

Flights were operated to Djerba in Tunisia to evacuate more than 1,200 stranded Indians from Libya and Malta. Including 289 evacuees, in August 2014, via chartered ferry from Benghazi.

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8. Apr 2015 Evacuation From Yemen’s capital Sanaa

Operated flights to evacuate Indians and other nationals stranded at Yemen’s capital Sanaa. 2 AI planes, 17 flights from Sanaa to Djibouti. IN: INS Mumbai, Sumitra, and Tarkash from Yemen to Djibouti. Most emigrants evacuated via an AI air bridge from Sanaa to Djibouti, then onward to India via AI, IA, and IN.

9. Jan-Feb 2020 Evacuation From Wuhan in China

In Jan and Feb 2020, in the wake of a coronavirus outbreak at Wuhan in China, Air India has operated flights to evacuate Indians stranded. AI has evacuated over 650 people from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

10. May 2020 Vande Bharat Mission

The Indian government initiated a massive evacuation program called “Vande Bharat Mission” on May 7, 2020. This involved flights via Air India and its low-cost arm Air India Express. The Vande Bharat Mission has turned out to be one of the largest evacuations of civilians by a country.

Now, Air India is also operating flights on B787 aircraft from Delhi & Mumbai to Bucharest (Romania) and Budapest (Hungary) on 26th Feb as special Govt Charter flights to fly back stranded Indian citizens who are stranded there amid the war between Russia and Ukraine.

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“Air India has always been playing a pivotal role, standing by the Nation during any crisis and now, inspired by the common mission shared by the Tata group and AI of serving the Nation & its People first – our-employees are only too eager to respond to the call of our Nation, driven by our values & conviction that “if we don’t do it then who will?” Said the Airline on Twitter.


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