The first of the five special Air India flights to repatriate Indians from Saudi Arabia left for Kozhikode (Calicut) in the southern state of Kerala with 152 passengers on board. It took off from King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh, at around 12.45 p.m. on Friday.
This special flight is part of the Indian government’s largest repatriation of its nationals stranded abroad from all over the world due to the coronavirus pandemic that began Thursday with two Air India Express flights departing from Abu Dhabi and Dubai carrying a total of 354 passengers.
The Indian Embassy in Riyadh, commenting on the first flight, stated that priority was given to pregnant women and accompanying family members, people with medical emergencies and distressed workers to board this flight.
As stressed by the Indian Ambassador, in a virtual press meet, on Wednesday, “This first phase is limited to the evacuation of the most compelling cases and it would take some time to repatriate the large number of those registered with the missions onboard the special flights.”
The next flight scheduled to leave Saudi Arabia will be Riyadh-Delhi on Sunday, followed by the Dammam-Cochin flight. Two additional flights will be mounted from Jeddah to two destinations in Kerala.
For those nationals from different parts of India, different flights are being planned from next week, after May 16.
A total of 60,000 Indian nationals have so far registered to travel to India since the launch of the online registration on April 29.
Before boarding the flights, the passengers were asked to undergo a medical screening and only asymptomatic persons were allowed to travel.
Temperature guns and thermal scanners were set up at the airport terminals to check the temperature of the passengers on their arrival. Upon arrival, all passengers will be placed in quarantine centers in their respective districts.