“We are doing all we can to get thousands of British travellers"
On Friday, April 10, 2020, the United Kingdom announced that they will fly stranded NRI citizens back to the UK.
Three chartered flights will fly out of Amritsar International Airport in order to help those who are stranded in Punjab and its surrounding areas amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
The flights will take off on April 13, 17 and 19 and will arrive in London.
A spokesperson for the British High Commission in New Delhi said in a press release:
“Over 3,000 British travellers currently stranded in India will get home via 12 additional chartered flights (from other airports) which opened for booking today.”
Jan Thompson, acting high commissioner to India, said in the release:
“We can confirm 12 more chartered flights to bring British travellers back home. Getting people home soon remains our absolute priority.”
On the efforts to help NRI citizens, the UK Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth Lord Tariq Ahmad said:
“We are doing all we can to get thousands of British travellers in India.
“This is a huge and complex operation which involves working with the Indian government to enable people to move in the country to get on these flights.”
While three flights from Amristar have been announced, the first chartered flight from India came from Goa.
It landed in London on April 9, 2020, with 317 British nationals.
Flights from across India have been arranged to bring citizens back to the UK.
Flights will also leave from Ahmedabad (April 3, 15), Goa (April 14, 16), Goa (via Mumbai, April 18), Thiruvananthapuram (via Kochi, April 15), Hyderabad (via Ahmedabad, April 17), Kolkata (via Delhi, April 19), Chennai (via Bengaluru, April 20).
The spokesperson added:
“A number of seats will be reserved for those deemed vulnerable.”
“To book flights and register their details, British nationals should use the city-specific webpages listed on the ‘India travel advice’ page.”
On April 7, around 96 NRIs returned to the US and 200 flew back to Canada. However, many are still stranded due to the high costs.
The announcement to bring back stranded NRIs to the UK comes after the government said it would spend £75 million to help stranded citizens.
It is believed that up to a million British citizens are stranded as borders and airlines were shut across the world in a bid to stem the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Department for Trade signed a memorandum of understanding with Virgin, EasyJet, Jet2 and Titan Airways to help travellers get back where they have tickets and where there are still commercial routes available. British Airways has also made a commitment.
Travellers will be allowed to use different carriers or fly on different days.
If there is no commercial option, the FCO will use the travel management company CTM to organise charter flights to bring citizens home.
When a flight becomes available, embassies and missions around the world will alert any British national in their country wanting to come home.