Kerala repatriation flight delay: Red tape or technical snag?
Khaleej Times has approached the Indian Embassy for comments.
After a 24-hour delay, a chartered flight repatriating stranded Indians from Ras Al Khaimah to Kozhikode in Kerala, India, organised by the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), finally took off at 6.30pm on Wednesday, Khaleej Times has learnt.
The SpiceJet flight carrying over 170 distressed Indians was supposed to depart from RAK International Airport at 6pm on Tuesday. Puttur Rahman, president of the UAE KMCC National Committee, attributed the delay to 'technical reasons'.
All passengers underwent mandatory IgG/IgM testing ahead of boarding, said Abdul Gafoor, one of the passengers. Passengers began boarding the flight at approximately 5.45pm on Wednesday, added Gafoor.
Khaleej Times has approached the Indian Embassy for comments. This article will be updated if/when we receive a response. On May 26, the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) issued a standard operation protocol (SOP), allowing private aircraft and chartered operations on international sectors. Since then, several private companies had chartered flights for their employees to return home.
After waiting at the airport from 5pm to 11pm on Tuesday night, all passengers, including families, pregnant women, workers who suffered job losses and people on visit visas were moved to Royal View Hotel in RAK's Nakhel region.
40 chartered flights given permission
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said during his daily media briefing on Wednesday that 40 chartered flights have been given permission to land in the state. He said: "In the first 10 days of the month, a total of 14 chartered flights will be landing in the state. We are ready to receive them."
The chief minister also warned that the state would put a limit on the flights if the charterers charge a higher airfare than what is being charged on the Vande Bharat Mission, and if they do not cater to priority groups as decided by the Government of India.
Tickets priced at Dh1,300
Passengers said they booked their tickets for Dh1,300 on the flight chartered by the KMCC two days ago. The Consulate-General of India in Dubai had issued a statement earlier, advising Indian citizens to book tickets only once the confirmed status of the flight has been updated on the missions' social media channels and websites.
Providing an explanation for breaking the ticket price ceiling placed by the Kerala government, Rahman said: "We received all approvals from respective local and Indian authorities. The flight to Kozhikode was delayed due to technical reasons. Also, people booked the tickets even before the government imposed the fare ceiling."
Rahman, however, maintained that it would be difficult for future chartered flights to adhere to the ceiling. "It is very difficult to get a private aircraft to fly at such low fares. The reason for launching this charter initiative is the high volume of demand from distressed Indians here. We have no intention of making profits on these flights. We just want these distressed persons to go back. Also, we are providing free tickets to 15 to 20 per cent of the passengers travelling with us."
As part of the Vande Bharat Mission on June 2, a total of six flights operated from Dubai to Kochi, Kannur, Coimbatore, Chandigarh, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, carrying 1,055 passengers.
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