The Vande Bharat Mission, which was launched by the Indian government, for the elaborative evacuation of Indians stuck abroad, amidst the coronavirus pandemic entered its phase three on June 10.
Under this new phase, Air India and it's secondary wing Air India Express has begun operating more flights which will include around 80 flights each to Europe, US and Canada. About 165 flights will fly to the countries in the Gulf from 10-30 June, the Union civil aviation Ministry Hardeep Singh Puri informed on Wednesday.
The minister recently shared a post on Twitter that read, "Starting immediately, Phase 3 of VBM (Vande Bharat Mission) will have 80 flights to Europe (2 daily flights to London and 2 to other European destinations) between now and June 30; and ten more flights to US-Canada in addition to 70 already announced."
"58 more flights added to evacuate stranded and distressed Indian citizens from Gulf countries between now and June 30 2020. Starting immediately, (the) the number of flights from Gulf under phase-3 of Vande Bharat Mission now increased from originally planned 107 to 165," he further tweeted.
The bookings for phase three of the government's mission started on June 10. However, netizens took to micro-blogging site Twitter to complain regarding the travel tickets that were not available for booking from various cities in the USA and Europe on Wednesday.
Nidhi Rangari tweeted, "I don't believe everyone stranded abroad can be accommodated in these VBM flights. I tried booking a flight today, my money was deducted; however, the flight wasn't booked, it took me 2 hours to speak to an Air India employee about the issue."
"VBM phase 3_From the US to India opened to book tickets directly on AirIndia booking site, followed by filling "Undertaking form". But all dates from June 15 to July 15 shows flights unavailable. No booking possible," complained Nitin Dave, a Twitterati.
According to an Air India official, people have responded positively to these flights operating under phase three of the mission. "There may be some isolated cases of inconvenience due to server issues due to heavy demand and hits on our booking portal," the Air India spokesperson said.
Under this mission, Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express have been successful in repatriating thousands of stranded Indians from various parts of the world since it started its international flight operations from May 7. It has been the only national carrier contributing to the Vande Bharat Mission amid the COVID-19 pandemic followed by continuous lockdowns.
However, private airline companies will also be included as part of the mission in the fourth phase.
"Vande Bharat is proving to be a mission of hope for stranded & distressed Indians around the world. 2441 Indians returned from Newark, Istanbul, New York, Stockholm, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Doha, Muscat, Dubai & Kuala Lumpur on June 9," Puri added.
On Monday, Puri said that both the carriers have managed to ferry around 66,831 Indians stranded abroad under the mission. On the other hand, 17,180 passengers have departed to different foreign countries with the help of these national carriers.