This Article is From Feb 01, 2011

Egypt crisis: Second special flight brings back 128 more Indians to Mumbai

Mumbai: A second special flight carrying Indians from Egypt landed in Mumbai on Tuesday morning. Around 128 people have returned on this flight from Cairo.

On Monday, over 300 people had returned from Cairo on the first special flight that landed in Mumbai in the afternoon.

Passengers said the Cairo airport was extremely crowded with people from all over the world trying to leave the country.

"The three days that we were there were very tense. We couldn't get out of the hotel. We had a conference. There were quite a few demonstrations right outside the hotel. Whatever you could see on TV was exactly how it was. There was a lot of tension in the city," said Sanjay Choudhary, one of the passengers who returned today.

The arrangement for the special flights was made at the request of the Indian community in Egypt in view of the prevailing situation there, the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

The Indian Embassy at Cairo has already made special arrangements to airlift all Indian nationals living in the country who wanted to return home.

The arrangements are being coordinated by the Indian Ambassador to Egypt R Swaminathan.

The Embassy officials are in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs, which is closely monitoring the situation.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said, "The Government of India is doing everything to safeguard and we are also taking steps for those who are keen to come back to India"

There are about 3,600 Indians in Egypt of which 2,200 are in Cairo. Some Indian tourists are stranded in Sharm-el-Sheikh and efforts are underway to transport them.

Air India passengers paid inflated fares to return from Egypt?

Some passengers who returned from Egypt on the special Air India flight claimed they were made to pay fares more than the normal rates.

'When I went there, I booked return tickets for me and my wife for Rs 56,000. And now we are being told on no basis that we have to pay Rs 45,000 per head, else we can't fly on this plane. There was no formal documentation or invoice. They had put up a board which stated that we had to pay $980. The Japanese and Turkish governments had flown out their citizens free of cost. We couldn't even see the US and UK citizens after ten hours, they had been completely evacuated. There was so much chaos. We did not have any other option. It was literally like being blackmailed, we were told that we would have to pay, else they could not do anything," said Vineet Ahuja, a businessman.

However, reacting to such claims, Air India sources said the airline has to charge commercial rates as the special flight cost was not borne by the government.

They added that since the airline has no scheduled operations to Cairo or Egypt, it has no listed fares and that it had to pull out planes from regular operations as it was requested by the Foreign Ministry.

According to travel agents, most airlines flying to Egypt - like Emirates or Qatar - have a system fare or a published fare between Rs 45,000 and Rs 47,000.