State to ‘consider’ evacuation flights plea
The state government will “consider” a request from airlines to allow international evacuation flights to Calcutta so that thousands of people stuck around the world could return home, said officials.
On Monday, representatives of various airlines held a meeting with the state government and Calcutta airport officials on the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for chartered flights from abroad, which the Bengal government has allowed.
“At the meeting, the airlines requested the official representing the state government to allow evacuation flights from other countries to Calcutta. The official promised to consider the request,” said an airport official.
On Wednesday, a state government official said they were considering the request and that they were going through the SOPs before deciding whether international evacuation flights could be allowed.
“If the state government wants to impose stricter SOPs, we will accept that. The airlines that can meet the SOP demands will operate evacuation flights and others will not,” a representative of the airline operators committee at the Calcutta airport said.
The state government, while allowing chartered flights from abroad, announced that only those who would test negative for Covid-19 within 96 hours before departure would be allowed to board the aircraft. The agency hiring a chartered flight will have to ensure that all passengers follow the SOPs.
Evacuation flights, operated by airlines, will have individual passengers booking tickets.
The government had stopped such flights in July after hundreds of evacuees, many of them medical students, had refused institutional quarantine and gone home straight from the city airport.
The Telegraph reported on Wednesday that travel agents’ federations had written to the state government urging it to allow evacuation flights. The airline operators’ committee made a similar appeal to the government during the day.
“We appreciate the state government’s move to allow chartered flights. Now, if the evacuation flights are allowed, many who can’t afford to buy a seat on such chartered flights can get a chance to return home,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.
The tour operators and airlines have also requested the state to allow resumption of domestic flights from six cities with high Covid prevalence to Calcutta. All flights to Calcutta from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune and Nagpur had been banned on July 6 following a request from the state government.
The ban was to end on August 15 but has been extended till August 31.