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Air bridge from Gulf in place

Mumbai/Delhi, March 19: The first plane carrying Indians from Kuwait fleeing from the war situation will land in Mumbai in the early hours tomorrow.

There will be three special Air-India flights to Kuwait today “in view of increased demand from Indian nationals to return home”, Air-India announced.

The first plane will land in Mumbai at 3.25 am tomorrow and the second at 7.25 am. Both will carry 400 passengers.

A Boeing 747-200 will fly on the Mumbai-Kuwait-Mumbai route and an A-310 will operate in the Mumbai-Kuwait-Kochi-Mumbai sector.

“The service will be operational as long as there’s a demand from Indians to fly back home,” said Jitendra Bhargava, director, public relations, Air-India.

Evacuation informally started yesterday when an Indian flight to Muscat was diverted via Kuwait picking up 100 passengers. Top officials said there is heavy demand for repatriation of Indians living in Kuwait City as well as Indians living in Saudi Arabian border towns.

Air-India said it is closely monitoring the situation and, if necessary, will start additional flights from Kuwait or other points in the Gulf region.

The tickets of the special flights have been sold at a concessional rate — 100 dinars for the Kuwait-Mumbai flight and 150 dinars for a return ticket. Seats are being given on a first-come first-serve basis, said an officer at the control cell here that has been set up for the flights.

Air-India said it would put into effect its contingency plan for evacuation of Indian nationals within 12 hours of receiving government orders. It sought the assistance of the Airports Authority of India to make available Mumbai airport at all times during the day to ensure that evacuation, once started, can be operated on a round-the-clock basis.

Air-India has not suspended its regular service to Bahrain, Dammam and Kuwait, the three places in the Gulf where its flights are available. They will be continued “till such time airports in these countries are available for flight operations”.

Since yesterday, Air-India has started to operate its west-bound flights in a new route “overflying” Iran.

It is also considering five other alternative routes in case this one is not available.

This airway will be followed by all airlines operating between South East Asia and Europe. Air-India has also stepped up security at airports.

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