Air India is planning to conduct multiple special flights to London between April 4 and April 7 to fly out foreigners stranded in the country amid the lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus, said senior officials on Thursday.
India is under a 21-day lockdown till April 14 and all domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this time period.
However, cargo flights and flights specially permitted by the aviation regulator DGCA can operate during this time period.
Senior Air India officials said the national carrier will conduct four flights on Delhi-London route between April 4 and April 7.
The officials added that the national career will also be conducting flights on Mumbai-London route on April 5 and April 7.
When asked if these flights to London from India will bring back Indians on their return, a senior Air India official responded, "It is unlikely. As per the plan till now, these flights will return empty from London".
In a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday, one of the airline's pilot unions had alleged that crew members of Air India are being provided with substandard, ill-fitting and flimsy personal protective equipment (PPE) on flights that are being operated amid coronavirus pandemic to either bring Indians from abroad or take foreigners to their countries.
The Executive Pilots Association (EPA) stated, "Our pilots and cabin crew are being provided substandard, ill-fitting and flimsy PPE that tear/disintegrate easily on rescue flights. Sanitizers are not provided in sufficient quantities and disinfection processes are short of industry best practices.
The EPA also told Mr Puri that their flying allowances, which comprises almost 70 per cent of their total salary, have not been paid since January this year.
Air India has already conducted special flights to Israel and Germany to fly out foreigners stranded in India amid the lockdown.
Till now, 1,914 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus while 50 people have died due to it in the country.