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It’s been a while since COVID-19 has caused a havoc to the global economy and the Aviation industry, in particular. While this crisis continues and has put the travel plans of millions of passengers at stake, one airline has been very actively involved in operating numerous rescue flights to rest of the world. The airline has been working hard to bring back the local citizens as well as evacuate stranded foreigners. The staff of this airline is not a part of any Defence forces. Yet they are always in the forefront and ready for their call of duty to assist the Government when needed. You guessed it right! We are talking about Air India – the national carrier of India, and the courageous Air India family who have been a part of the Air India relief operation during the Covid-19 crisis.
While India is under a complete lockdown, Air India, (as always) came to the forefront to help citizens of India and other countries reach their destinations respectively. This is not the first time the airline has come forward during such crisis situations. Let’s take a look at the efforts from Air India and appreciate the work put in by the staff and management of Air India during this crisis situation.
Air India Boeing 747s relief operation to Wuhan, China
In January and February 2020, Air India operated their first rescue flights to Wuhan, China. This Air India relief operation was to get back stranded Indians and a few citizens of other Nationalities who were stuck due to the rising COVID-19 cases across the country. The airline flew two of its Boeing 747-400 aircraft (VT-ESP and VT-EVB) with a complete set of professionals including the Doctors, security staff, crew and commercial staff.
Read more about the Wuhan Rescue operation by Air India in the article below:
Air India relief flight to Tokyo, Japan
An Air India flight, operated by the Boeing 747-400 (VT-EVA) as AI1307 repatriated Indians from the Japanese cruise ship “Diamond Princess”. The aircraft brought back 119 Indians and 5 foreigners (two from Sri Lanka and one each from Nepal, South Africa and Peru) to New Delhi landed on February 27, 2020 at 04:29 hours.
Air India flight has just landed in Delhi from Tokyo,carrying 119 Indians & 5 nationals from Sri Lanka,Nepal, South Africa&Peru who were quarantined onboard the #DiamondPrincess due to #COVID19. Appreciate the facilitation of Japanese authorities.
Thank you @airindiain once again
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) February 26, 2020
Air India rescue operation from Milan
On March 15, 2020, Air India flew their Boeing 787 aircraft (VT-NAA) to Milan to rescue 211 Indian students who were stranded due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
— ANI (@ANI) March 15, 2020
Air India flight to Rome
While Italy had seen a tremendous rise in the COVID-19 cases in the month of March, it was Air India who went to rescue the Indians stuck in Italy. The National carrier flew it’s Boeing 777-300ER (VT-ALK) to get back stranded citizens who had been waiting in anticipation to return back to India. The flight departed from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on March 21, 2020 was commanded by Captain Swati Raval, along with Captain Raja Chauhan, and landed back carrying 263 passengers. This was the second batch of Indians evacuated from Italy (after the earlier Air India relief operation from Milan).
Evacuation flight to Tel Aviv, Israel
In continuation to these relief efforts, Air India operated a relief flight with over 300 stranded Israelis from New Delhi to Tel Aviv, Israel. The Boeing 777-300ER (VT-ALU) aircraft departed New Delhi on March 26, 2020 as AI 139 and landed back the next day as a ferry flight (without any passengers). Ron Malka, Israel’s Ambassador in New Delhi, visited the airport to see off the passengers and thanked Air India for their selfless service.
— Ron Malka 🇮🇱 (@DrRonMalka) March 26, 2020
— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) March 26, 2020
Evacuation flights to France and Germany
Air India operated evacuation flights to Frankfurt and Paris from Mumbai and Delhi along with relief materials. The airline had evacuated Nationals from Thiruvanathapuram and Goa and flew the people from Paris and Frankfurt. Air India flew their aircrafts VT-ALT, VT-ALX and VT-ALN to Frankfurt, Germany and VT-ALO to Paris. While Air India operated these sectors, millions of people across the globe praised Air India and its crew for their selfless service in lieu of this pandemic situation.
On April 1 and 2, Air India operated special relief flights out of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport for Frankfurt. During the course of the flight, Air India received an unexpected message from Pakistan’s Air Traffic Controller (ATC). The ATC wished Air India’s crew for operating relief flights during such global crisis.
Below is the conversation between the ATC and the Pilot as shared by the Captain of that Air India flight: (Source: India Today)
“As we entered in Pakistan’s Flight Information Region (FIR), the Pakistan Air Traffic Controller (ATC) greeted us ‘Assalaam Alaikum!’ This is Karachi’s control welcoming Air India for relief flights to Frankfurt,” the senior captain quoted the Pakistan ATC as saying.
“Confirm are you operating relief flights for Frankfurt,” the Pakistani ATC further said.
“AFFIRM,” said the Air India captain in Pakistan’s airspace.
“You are cleared direct to exit point Kebud request estimate crossing Kebud (Exit),” came a response from the ATC.
Air India captain replied, saying “Cleared direct Kebud, Thank you.”
After this, the Pakistan ATC showered praise on Air India.
“We are proud of you that in a pandemic situation you are operating flights, Good Luck!”
“Thank you so much,” responded the captain of India’s national carrier.
What a proud moment it must have been for the crew when they had received such inspiring messages from the fellow Air Traffic Controller. Later, when the captain switched to the Iran Airspace frequency, the ATC of Iran gave them a direct track of 1000 NM thus thanking the Pilot and the entire airline staff for the good gesture.
“First time in my entire career as a pilot, Iran gave a direct routing for about 1000 miles a privilege guess enjoyed as special flights, in all especially in the recent tense situation in the Iranian airspace,” he said. – Source: India Today
On that day, all the Flight Information Regions, also known as FIRs, through which the aircraft had passed, just said one thing, “We are proud of You!“. While the ATC across enroute from Mumbai to Frankfurt thanked the Air India crew and staff, the whole Nation was proud of this outstanding mission accomplished by Team Air India.
The crew on this flight were on duty for a direct stretch of 20 hours. The crew were responsible to take care of themselves and fellow colleagues throughout the flight. As a mandatory procedure in this pandemic situation, the airline staff will now remain in self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.
Evacuation flight to London for Canadian Citizens
On April 4 and 6, 2020, as a part of this ongoing mission, Air India flew Canadian citizens from Delhi to London for the Canadian Embassy. The flight was operated by the Boeing 777-300ER, VT-ALQ. After the 21-day lockdown was announced by India’s Prime Minister, Shri. Narendra Modi, all flight operations (both domestic and international) were cancelled. As a result, many Canadian citizens were stranded in New Delhi. The airline flew it’s Boeing 777-300ER to Toronto and ferried back the bird to Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. The passengers of this two times service between Delhi and London will be further connected on Air Canada to make them reach home.
Domestic charter flights for US Nationals stranded in India
Adding to all these international relief and evacuation flights, Air India is also assisting US citizens who are stranded in India. The airline is helping the stranded Americans and flying them to Mumbai and Delhi. Further, these passengers will be connected on to Delta Airlines who is currently operating repatriation flights to India.
Ferry flight to get essential materials from China
On April 5, 2020, as part of the ongoing Air India Relief Operation around the world, an Air India Boeing 777-300ER (VT-ALN) flew to Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport as AI349 from Shanghai. The flight was a ferry flight (onward from New Delhi to Shanghai) to pick up COVID-19 essentials. The flight landed back in Mumbai with 19.4 tonnes of medical kit materials. This was Air India’s first of many cargo charter flights to bring in relief materials from China. Later the same day, Air India operated the second Boeing 777-300ER (VT-ALJ) on BOM-DEL-PVG-DEL-BOM sector to carry additional relief materials from China.
April 9 – Boeing 777-300ER VT-ALU operated the DEL-PVG sector as AI348 to bring in essential supplies from China. In the next few weeks, VT-ALS, VT-ALO and others have been operating on the BOM-DEL-PVG-BOM sectors to bring relief materials as part of the “Air-Bridge” connection that has been set up between India and China.
.@airindiain launched its first cargo flight to lift essential medical kits from #China yesterday. Loaded and returned, the final cargo figure on board AI349 this morning at 0450 hrs stood at 19,416 kg!#IndiaFightsCorona@PMOIndia @MoCA_GoI @MIB_India @COVIDNewsByMIB pic.twitter.com/k7XOTqJNAN
— Swachh Bharat I #IndiaFightsCorona (@swachhbharat) April 5, 2020
On April 6th, Air India operated a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (VT-ANI) from New Delhi to Hong Kong for bringing the essential relief materials. The aircraft will land back at New Delhi on April 7 at around 1130 hrs. Similarly, on April 13, 15, 22, Air India operated their Dreamliner aircraft (VT-ANP & VT-ANR) on DEL-HKG sector for bringing essential supplies.
Air India and Alliance Air relief flights within India
Air India along with Alliance Air operate flights within India almost on a daily basis. The airline operates their fleet of ATR 72-600s and Airbus A320s to carry relief materials across cities in India. Alliance Air and Air India assisted the Govt. by transporting essential items such as the ICMR kits between Delhi, Pune and Patna. The same has been acknowledged by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in a Tweet:
The 3rd batch of air cargo carried essential items from Delhi to Pune and ICMR kits from Pune to Patna. Thereafter, testing kits were delivered in Delhi aboard the return flight from Patna. MoCA appreciates the contributions of all stakeholders. @ushapadhee1996 @airindian @aai pic.twitter.com/3Ywi3btz9z
— MoCA_GoI (@MoCA_GoI) March 27, 2020
Aircraft and Route List
We managed to compile this list of the flights operated by the fleet of Air India and Alliance Air on domestic routes. This below infographic shows the list of airports and the aircrafts that has operated to these airports. The aircraft in consideration are the Air India Airbus A319, A320, A321, Boeing 777 amd Alliance Air ATR 72-600.
|Airbus A319||VT-SCM||DEL, AJL, CCU, HYD|
|Airbus A320||VT-EXE||MAA, IXZ|
|Airbus A320neo||VT-EXF, VT-EXN. VT-EXO, VT-EXP, VT-EXQ, VT-EXR||BLR, BOM, DEL, IXR, SXR, HYD, VGA, CCU, GAU, MAA, IXC, TRV, GOI, DED, ATQ|
|Airbus A321||VT-PPA, VT-PPH, VT-PPI, VT-PPQ||DEL, BBI, HYD, VGA, MAA, BOM, CCU, IXZ, (CMB)|
|Boeing 777-300ER||VT-ALJ, VT-ALN, VT-ALO, VT-ALQ, VT-ALT, VT-ALX||DEL, BOM, GOI, TRV, BLR, COK, ATQ, (PVG, FRA, CDG, LHR, FCO, TLV)|
|Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner||VT-ANA, VT-ANE, VT-ANI, VT-ANJ, VT-ANL, VT-ANN, VT-ANR, VT-ANU, VT-ANW||DEL, BOM, BLR, CCU, HYD, MAA, GOI, (FRA, HKG, MXP)|
|ATR 72-600 (Operated by Alliance Air)||VT-AIV, VT-AIY, VT-AIZ, VT-RKD, VT-RKE, VT-RKF, VT-RKH, VT-RKK, VT-RKL||DEL, BOM, CCU, HYD, BLR, PNQ, TRV, CJB, ISK, IXA, GAU, DIB, RPR, PAT, IXR, VNS,|
Air India carries essential life saving medicines to Sri Lanka
On April 7, 2020, Air India carried a consignment gift of essential life saving medicines (~10 tonnes) on an Airbus A321 (VT-PPA) from New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport to Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo. The aircraft departed from New Delhi at 1030 hrs and landed in Colombo at 1345 hrs and later returned back to New Delhi at 1800 hrs.
The gifted consignments had the following message pasted –
“A gift from the people and government of India to the people and government of Sri Lanka in this hour of need.”
The President of Sri Lanka, Shri. Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Prime Minister, Shri. Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted his heartfelt appreciation to the Prime Minister of India and to the people of India for their warm gesture.
I wish to convey my heartfelt appreciation to Hon PM @narendramodi, Govt & people of #India for your warm gesture in sending medicines to #LKA on a special chartered flight. Your kind & generous support is deeply appreciated in this hour of need #TogetherWeCan #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/XpcUw9xK6d
— Gotabaya Rajapaksa (@GotabayaR) April 7, 2020
I thank Prime Minister @narendramodi, the Govt. and people of #India for the support extended to #lka during this time of crisis. We are grateful for all the medical supplies that @airindiain flew in to #cmb today on a special chartered flight. #TogetherWeCan #COVID19SL pic.twitter.com/UU5SqOzzzN
— Mahinda Rajapaksa (@PresRajapaksa) April 7, 2020
Similarly, on April 8th, the second Air India Relief Operation flight took off to Colombo. The flight was once again operated by an Airbus A321 aircraft (VT-PPI) with more essential life saving materials to Sri Lanka.
Another gift consignment of medicines arrives from #India to #SriLanka. Cooperation in these difficult times is mark of a strong friendship ! And a big thank you to @airindiain for undertaking this amazing task
#lka #Togetherwestand #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/OH9inPtSmS
— India in Sri Lanka (@IndiainSL) April 8, 2020
April 15, 2020 – Air India Relief Operations with medical supplies to Mauritius
On April 15, Air India sent a Boeing 787 Dreamliner (VT-ANL) to the island of Mauritius. As a mark of longstanding special friendship between India and Mauritius, India today delivered the first consignment of half million tablets of Hydroxychloroquine and 12 tons of lifesaving medicines to Mauritius as per their request. Vice PM of Mauritius Mrs. Leela Devi Luchoomun Dookun received the consignment and thanked the Indian Government for their support offered.
As a mark of longstanding special friendship, India today provided Hydroxychloroquine (half a million tablets) to Mauritius as per their request. Vice PM of Mauritius Mrs. Leela Devi Luchoomun Dookun received the consignment that arrived in an Air India Cargo flight. @PKJugnauth pic.twitter.com/fkE9JiHOva
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) April 15, 2020
April 15, 2020 – Air India special flight to Seychelles
The same aircraft (VT-ANL) continued from Mauritius to Seychelles. The aircraft carried first of two consignments of medical supply (about 4 tonnes) in response to the country’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 epidemic. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Seychelles, welcomed the flight along with Indian High Commissioner Gen. Dalbir Singh at Victoria-Seychelles Airport.
It was a pleasure to welcome a special Air India flight to Seychelles this afternoon in the company of the Indian High Commissioner Dalbir Singh, with the first of two consignments of medical supply in response to our national efforts to fight the COVID-19. Thank you, India! pic.twitter.com/gvWVCWIUBT
— Barry Faure (@BarryFaure) April 15, 2020
April 15, 2020 – Air India moves 56 tonnes of perishables to London and Frankfurt
Under the Krishi Udan scheme, Air India operated their second flight from Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport to Frankfurt on April 15. The flight carried 27 tons of seasonal fruits and vegetables from Mumbai to Frankfurt and returned with 10 tonnes of general cargo. The flight was operated by Air India’s Boeing 787 aircraft (VT-ANA).
The first flight under this scheme operated on April 13th from CSMIA to London. The flight carried 28.95 tons of fruits and vegetables and returned with 15.6 tonnes of general cargo. The flight was operated by Air India’s Boeing 787 aircraft(s) – VT-ANJ & VT-ANW.
April 21, 2020 – Air India relief flight to Bhubaneswar
Air India Relief Operation continues almost on an everyday basis during the lockdown period. On April 21, their Airbus A321 (VT-PPL) as AI1473 from New Delhi IGI Airport to Biju Patnaik International Airport (BBI) carrying 459 packets (5356.7 kg) of PPE (Personal protective equipment) and sanitizers that were delivered to Odisha State Medical Corporation (OSMC).
Total 459 packets (5356.7 kg) of PPE (Personal protective equipment)/sanitizers etc. delivered today to Odisha State Medical Corporation (OSMC) by #AirIndia AI-1473 from Delhi: Director, Biju Patnaik International Airport, #Bhubaneswar. #COVID19 #Odisha pic.twitter.com/LOdypiieMX
— Oneindia News (@Oneindia) April 21, 2020
April 2020 – Air India operations to Guangzhou
In addition to the relief flights from India to Hong Kong and Shanghai, Air India Relief Operation commenced to the city of Guangzhou to bring essential relief materials. On April 16, VT-ANL operated AI3602/3603 from New Delhi IGI Airport to Guangzhou, China. The aircraft airlifted 3 lakh rapid antibody test kits that were headed to the states of Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.
The Ambassador of India to the People’s Republic of China, Vikram Misri tweeted –
Nearly 3 Lakh Rapid Antibody Tests have just been airlifted by @airindiain from #Guangzhou | Supplies are headed to Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. Great work on ground by our team at @cgiguangzhou pic.twitter.com/uF5JxpKsve
— Vikram Misri (@VikramMisri) April 18, 2020
On April 23, Air India deployed their Boeing 777-300(ER) aircrafts (VT-ALP and VT-ALQ); and on April 24, two aircraft (VT-ALJ and VT-ALQ) operated flights from DEL to CAN to pick up medical kits and PPE for #COVID19.
“Three Air India/Blue Dart flights over the last two days have lifted more than 80 tons of cargo bringing 1 million sets of protective goggles from Guangzhou to Delhi | Appreciate assistance of Civil Aviation Authority of China and MFA_China.”, said Vikram Misri on his latest tweet.
We are extremely thankful to Capt. Ajit Ojha who operated the aircraft VT-ALQ on DEL-CAN-DEL for keeping us informed of this flight. Here’s a picture shared by Capt. Ajit on his personal Instagram page –
Overall, Air India has been doing a fantastic job during these crisis situations and many a times, these efforts go unnoticed. This is not the first of such relief flights operated by the airline. Air India has operated evacuation flights to Kuwait, Yemen, Syria during crisis situations to get back stranded citizens. It’s great to see the efforts from the Air India family and the Government backing them up with the best-in-class medical infrastructure to tackle this grave situation.
Great job Air India! Every Indian is proud of you. Jai Hind !