Now’s a tough time for airline employees, who face an uncertain future as their employers struggle to stay in business, and risk getting sick if they are able to work.

Today, Air India appealed directly to the country, asking communities to respect those who have recently returned from overseas after performing rescue flights for Indians needing to get home.

According to the airline, crew members have experienced harassment “in many localities”. In a statement released on Twitter today, Air India said:

“Vigilante resident welfare associations and neighbours have started ostracising the crew, obstructing them for performing their duty or even calling in the police, simply because the crew travelled abroad in the course of their duty. These vigilantes have conveniently forgotten that many a spouse, parent, sibling, child and near and dear one have been brought home safe and secure, thanks to the heroic efforts.”

The airline appealed for everybody, particularly law enforcement agencies, to ensure that its crew are treated with “courtesy, respect and freedom”.

Air India has been performing a number of rescue flights to evacuate Indians stranded at locations around the world following travel restrictions imposed in response to the spread of coronavirus.

So far, such rescue flights have been operated from Wuhan, China; Japan; and Milan and Rome, Italy. Air India said:

“Crew members who are landing into India from affected cities are sent on home quarantine and also to designated hospitals for check up.”

It also posted pictures on Twitter of its crew carrying out the rescue flights.