First Air India repatriation flight to take off from San Francisco, only asymptomatic passengers allowed onboard


San Francisco: Only those Indian nationals who show no signs of contracting the coronavirus infection and have been stranded in the US due to the lockdown, are allowed to board the first repatriation flight of Air India from San Francisco to Mumbai and Hyderabad on Saturday, said Sanjay Panda, Consul General of India in San Francisco.

“It is appropriate that the flight is taking off from San Francisco which has a huge Indian diaspora. Our jurisdiction comprises of 11 states, including Alaska, Hawaii and the federal territory of Guam. We have over 10,000 registrations but the people who are travelling on this flight are those travelling under compelling circumstances. We have divided them in different categories,” Panda told the reporters gathered at the San Francisco International Airport.

“People who are coming here have to first go for a health screening. Only asymptomatic passengers are allowed to board the flight. It was a challenge to put in together all this but it has moved swiftly so far,” the Consul-General added.

In the first phase of the US-India segment of the Government of India’s ambitious ‘Operation Vande Bharat’, flights have been planned from San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington DC to New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Bengaluru.

The first of the series of special Air India flight carrying 224 Indian nationals is scheduled to fly from San Francisco on Saturday night, the External Affairs Ministry had said.

Speaking further on the evacuation operation, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, India’s Ambassador to US, said following the departure of the first Air India flight from San Francisco, there will be seven more flights from four different hubs across the States and will be bound to different cities of India.

“A total of 25,000 people registered in the first week. We’re going to take seven flights, this will be a continuous work in progress, depending on the requirement and where the people wish to go in India, and what the local situation allows,” Sandhu added further.

External Affairs Ministry and Ministry of Home Affairs have issued detailed guidelines for passengers and protocol to be followed during the flight and immediately after their arrival in India.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, India is conducting ‘Vande Bharat’ Mission — its biggest ever repatriation exercise since independence — to bring back stranded Indians from abroad, including from the US, the UAE and the UK.

Nearly 15,000 Indians are expected to return on special Air India flights from 12 countries in the coming days. (ANI)