Over 3,000 British travellers currently stranded in India are set to get home on an additional 12 charter flights, which have opened for bookings today.
The UK government has already organised seven charter flights from Goa, Mumbai and New Delhi, the first of which arrived from Goa at London Stansted on Thursday morning, carrying 317 passengers.
1,400 more will arrive over the Easter weekend, and the 12 flights beginning next week will bring back thousands more.
A ‘huge and complex operation’
British nationals in India have previously complained of lengthy waiting lists for flights, and expensive fares of up to £1,000 (INR 95,000) for a one-way journey.
But the Foreign Office’s Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon said:
“We are doing all we can to get thousands of British travellers in India home. This is a huge and complex operation which also involves working with the Indian Government to enable people to move within India to get on these flights.”
In addition to South Africa and Peru, India is said to be a “priority country” for the UK to arrange charter flights from. With a large number of Britons seeking to return, and a lack of commercial options, the process is made more challenging by India’s huge size, as well as the restrictions on movement that are currently in place.
The upcoming charter flights:
These charter flights are for travellers who normally reside in the UK, as well as their direct dependants. A number of seats will be reserved for those deemed vulnerable.
The following flights to the UK are scheduled for the next two weeks:
Goa - UK: April 14, 16 (£681 per passenger)
Goa (via Mumbai) - UK: April 18 (£681; £600 from Mumbai)
Amritsar - UK: April 13, 17, 19 (£472)
Ahmedabad-UK: April 13, 15 (£481)
Hyderabad (via Ahmedabad) - UK: April 17 (£600; £481 from Ahmedabad)
Chennai (via Bengaluru) - UK: April 20 (£616 from either destination)
Kolkata (via Delhi) - UK: April 19 (£600; £581 from Delhi)
Thiruvananthapuram (via Kochi) - UK: April 15 (£632 from either destination).
The cost of the flight is shown for each traveller and infant. Children under the age of two will travel free of charge.
Further details were given on Twitter today by the Acting High Commissioner Jan Thompson:
Not everyone will get a seat
The UK is warning that the latest flights are already over subscribed (following registration of previous flights) and says those who are not allocated a place on a flight will be put on a waitlist for the next available set of flights.
To make a booking, you will need:
A valid passport and be able to meet the entry requirements of the UK
Contact details for each traveller you are registering
Your UK home address and postcode
A means of payment, such as credit or debit card details.
If you cannot pay the cost of the ticket, you should send an SMS text message containing ONLY your full name to +44 7537 416 124. Travellers may be eligible to apply for an emergency loan to cover the cost of the ticket (though you would need to repay the loan when you are back in the UK).
To book, visit this page of the UK gov site and click the relevant link for the flight you want to take
The British High Commission will provide consular support to any British nationals who remain in India. Consular helpline numbers: New Delhi: +91 (11) 2419 2100; Chennai: +91 (44) 42192151; Mumbai/Goa: +91 (22) 6650 2222.
It’s a relief to see more flights opening up to help stranded Brits get back home to the UK, but the nightmare will continue for those who don’t make it on to this round of flights.
Those who need to make use of these flights are being urged to book immediately.
What do you make of the UK’s rescue flights, and the price of the tickets?