State governments in the past have expressed reluctance to deal with large numbers of incoming flyers as their health infrastructure has been swamped with a huge number of COVID-19 cases.
Lufthansa group has offered to fly empty planes to India and carry passengers only on its outbound flights to destinations in Europe, senior government officials said on Tuesday. Scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, there is a pent up demand for outbound international travel, especially among non-resident Indians (NRIs) who are in a hurry to go back either for personal or professional reasons.
“Lufthansa group (which operates airline brands like Lufthansa, SWISS, etc) have offered to fly ferry (empty) flights to India and carry passengers only on its outbound flights to destinations in Europe. A decision is yet to be taken on this matter,” said the senior government official.
The Civil Aviation Ministry started Vande Bharat Mission on May 7 to bring back stranded Indians from abroad on flights operated by Air India group amid the coronavirus lockdown. Air India group has been taking bookings on its outbound flights too, and for some destinations the demand has been huge.
Since March 23, foreign airlines have operated non-scheduled repatriation flights to take their stranded citizens back home. Lufthansa did not respond to the request for a statement from PTI. The offer from the German airlines group Lufthansa has come at a time when the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise in India, especially in metro cities that have the country’s largest airports like Delhi and Mumbai.
State governments in the past have expressed reluctance to deal with large numbers of incoming flyers as their health infrastructure has been swamped with a huge number of COVID-19 cases. For example, when scheduled domestic passenger flights started operating on May 25, Mumbai airport was permitted to handle only 50 flights per day as per the request of Maharashtra government.
Similarly, Kolkata airport was permitted to handle just 20 flights per day from May 28 onwards, as per the request of the West Bengal government. More than 2.46 lakh people have been infected and around 7,400 people have died due to COVID-19 in India till now.