The Centre issued a statement on Thursday stating no international flights would be allowed to land in India from March 22 onward for a period of one week. However, Air India, country's national air carrier is constantly flying to various countries to bring back Indian nationals stuck due to Coronavirus Pandemic.
The coronavirus death toll has gone up to 11,397 with more than 275,427 cases reported in over 160 countries and territories. Italy has overtaken China as the worst-hit with over over 4,000 deaths reported so far.
On Sunday, an Air India's Boeing 777 ER aircraft landed at Delhi airport carrying 263 students evacuated from Rome. The flight took off on Saturday afternoon to evacuate Indians stranded there amid the coronavirus crisis.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.The crew of @airindiain Boeing 777 led by Capt Swati Raval & Capt Raja Chauhan responded to the call of duty & displayed exemplary determination by airlifting 263 Indians, mostly students, stranded in Rome. pic.twitter.com/JfqC7kwmGG— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) March 22, 2020
While countries across the world are closing their borders and airlines are also shutting operations, Air India has proved its worth by evacuating thousands of stranded Indians, mostly from China, Iran and Italy, all of which are worst hit by COVID-19.
Last week too, Air India flew a special flight to Milan and ferried 230 stranded Indians. Interestingly, Air India, despite its heroic efforts, has been at the centre of controversies for years now. While Air India is always hounded for its loss-making business, many don't like the service of the national carrier.
Over the years, people have mocked Air India for their food, flight delays, aged flight crew and now, over the government's effort to privatize the national carrier.
Despite this, Air India, for years, has been a face for India's global rescue missions, whenever needed. Back in 1990, Air India evacuated 1.7 Lakh people from Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War, in what's called the 'largest rescue mission by a civil airliner'.
Surely India has Indian Air Force that has time to time helped in evacuating citizens from disaster hit areas, and has also contributed to rescue ops during the COVID-19 crisis by sending missions to China, but IAF has its own limitations, both operational and political.
That is where Air India has proved its mettle. Ever since the whole coronavirus outbreak started, Air India has sent multiple flights to foreign land for evacuating not only Indians, but also foreign nationals on demand from friendly foreign governments.
On Feb 1, an Air India 747 flew to Wuhan, the then epicentre of Coronavirus to rescue 324 stranded Indians, one of the earliest rescue ops by any government globally. A day later, the same aircraft rescued 323 more Indians along with 7 Maldivian nationals.
No other airline in India has such vast fleet and experience to fly international routes as Air India and we can only hope that the privatization will bring the best out of Air India.
With Inputs from PTI