Rs 1 lakh air ticket not an option for many stranded | India News

MUMBAI: Even as the Indian government readies the second phase of its Air India repatriation flights, named Vande Bharat Mission, for the scores of Indian nationals stranded abroad the opportunity means nothing as they cannot afford the Rs 1 lakh or so needed to fly back home and stay in 14-day hotel quarantine.
“For many of the 6,000-8,000 Indian students in the UK, the high costs of travel and quarantine has made it difficult for them to return to India; many have lost their part-time jobs,” said Sanam Arora, chairperson of NISAU, an umbrella organisation for Indian students in the UK.

In March, the government had allowed returnees to do home quarantine, but the plan had failed. For the current lot, depending on the hotel, it costs Rs 4,000-7,000 per day for quarantine stay and three meals, which spikes the return cost by Rs 50,000 or more. Then again, one-way economy class air fare on AI repatriation flight costs about Rs 55,000 for a flight from London, over Rs 1 lakh for a flight from San Francisco and Rs 35,000 from Dubai.
Sydney-based Amit Sharma of Pricebeat Travel, who had handled ticketing for Delhi-Sydney Singapore Airlines repatriation flight, said: “The ticket prices are a bit higher… as they fly empty one way so passengers are paying for a round trip ticket. Only single sector is used while other sectors remain empty. Also, the tickets are offered at one price in repatriation flights…”
But that is of little solace to passengers who had already paid for return tickets. Samarth PV, who flew to Abu Dhabi in January on a threemonth visit visa to job hunt, said: “I had paid for my April 7 return ticket to Bengaluru on IndiGo, but the flight was cancelled due to lockdown. I have no money to pay for another flight and quarantine charges. I live in a shared space and I yet pay rent for the month. I can afford only one meal a day. I went to the Indian Embassy and to my surprise it was shut and a security personnel posted outside was responding to stranded Indians queries.”
Then there are those who are thankful for the repatriation flights. Eighteen-year old Rahul Sondi, studying in London, boarded the AI flight to Mumbai, on the day he was evicted by his landlord. “ I was having meals at a community kitchen when my parents bought me the AI ticket back home,” he said. “Every week, many Indian students are being evicted from their homes. It’s pitiful, most can’t afford to fly home due to the high costs.”

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