IndiGo, India's biggest airline, has agreed to help a migrant laborer and two others fly home from Mumbai after an earlier flight he paid for by selling family livestock was canceled.
The workers, from West Bengal, haven't earned any income since the end of March when Prime Minister Narendra Modi abruptly imposed a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to a report in the Times of India newspaper. They'd managed to raise 30,600 rupees ($405) for the air tickets, only to be told their flight was canceled and there wouldn't be any refunds, according to the newspaper. The family of at least one of them raised the money by selling three goats, the newspaper reported.
"We've re-accommodated the 3 passengers who were unable to travel to Kolkata. Their original booking had to be canceled as the Government of West Bengal has prohibited flights until 28th May," tweeted IndiGo.
The flight was canceled as the government of West Bengal imposed restrictions on airline services, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a Twitter post. IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., said it has now booked tickets for the workers for June 1 at no extra charge.
The incident puts the spotlight on consequences of strict stay-at-home orders. The lockdown has left millions of migrant workers stranded around the country without access to livelihoods, forcing some to walk hundreds of miles to get back to their villages, as all modes of transport were suspended. Earlier this month, a freight train ran over more than a dozen workers heading back home on foot when they stopped to rest along the railroad assuming there were no services.
The canceled flight also shows a lack of coordination between provincial administrations and the federal government, which suddenly allowed airlines to sell local flight tickets, only to see some states blocking them just before air transport was supposed to resume. Airlines around the world are not refunding passengers in cash if a flight is canceled due to government orders related to the outbreak, instead offering them credit to use in future flights.
The migrant workers from West Bengal had initially tried to book a train ticket but failed, the newspaper reported.