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Indian national carrier to fly stranded Kenyans home

Saturday May 30 2020
AIR INDIA

People watch the Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Le Bourget airport, near Paris on June 20, 2013. PHOTO | ERIC PIERMONT | AFP

By LEON LIDIGU

In Jaipur, India

The Indian national carrier will on June 5 fly into Nairobi more stranded Kenyans in an arrangement where passengers will meet own cost.

The details emerged Saturday as the Kenyan High Commission in New Delhi indicated up to 300 Kenyans had registered for the repatriation flight offered by the Indian government as it comes to rescue her nationals stuck in Kenya.

CHARGED SH148,512

The Nation learnt that Kenyans will be  charged Sh148,512 each for a business class ticket while the cost of an economy class ticket will go for Sh65,711.

Yet by Saturday evening, the Airline had closed the online till for business tickets, an indication it had been fully booked.

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The cost, in normal circumstances would be lower, even by half for business tickets. But the Kenyan Mission said it was an arrangement Nairobi has had no role in funding.

The special flight by Air India is also planned to rescue Indian nationals in Kenya, so it will carry a number of Kenyans who missed the evacuation flight a month a go by the Kenya Airways.

Early this month, High Commissioner Willy Bett put up a notice asking any more Kenyans wishing to fly home to register.

India’s planned repatriation flight will depart Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai on June 5 for Nairobi.

PATIENTS

As of Wednesday, the Nation learnt up to 250 Kenyans including students, patients and caregivers had registered with the Mission.

 “We consulted relevant authorities and asked them to allow Kenyans who may wish to return to Kenya on the planned flight at own cost to do so,” Mr Bett told the Nation.

Despite this not being a Kenyan government arrangement, Mr Bett said the conditions for those to be repatriated will remain the same as those who used the Kenya Airways flight two weeks ago.

That means those intending to travel must  be Kenyan citizens with a valid Visa and Kenyan passport , able to pay for their own fare , be Covid-19 free with a certificate  showing that and must also be ready to undergo a 14-28 day mandatory quarantine imposed by the government upon arrival.

 “Majority are Kenyans who had come for tourism, to visit relatives and other businesses,” the diplomat told the Nation.

REPATRIATION

India will be running its second phase of repatriation ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ according to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. The mission includes a total of 149 flights, including feeder flights, to repatriate stranded Indians from 40 countries. They include Kenya, Sri Lanka Finland, Belgium, New Zealand, Netherlands, Mauritius, Spain, Myanmar, Maldives, Egypt and South Korea.

Kenyans riding this flight to Nairobi could include those who had bought tickets on the KQ flight but missed or were asked to surrender seats for the more needy passengers.

But Mr Bett said more patients are expected to travel. India is a popular destination for Kenyans seeking affordable medical care. Some had planned return flights long before India imposed a lockdown that has now gone into its second month.

“We have about 80 patients and their care-givers who had stayed behind for treatment and are now ready to go home.” Mr Bett said.

ACQUIRE VISAS

He also assured that information on ticket prices and how everything will play out will be communicated later.

 “Those who need to acquire exit visas or to source for funds from their families back home have ample time to do so,” he said.

This is the second batch of Kenyans stranded in India being flown home.

On May 7, Kenya Airways’ flight KQ 205 landed in Nairobi from Mumbai with 234 Kenyans onboard.

This came after an agreement between KQ and the Kenya government to prioritise and ‘repatriate’ Kenyan patients caught up in what was India’s 21 day total lockdown.

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi has since extended it for the fourth time since March 24 to May 31 in effort to contain the Covid-19 virus pandemic with the tally of positive cases now at 101,000, with 39173 recoveries and 3,103 deaths.

However, Mr Bet confirmed that some 17 people who intended to travel back home had been ejected and then replaced with patients and their care-givers hours before the KQ 205 took off.

 “The issue of offloading was a Kenya Airways issue; ours was just to give them a list of patients who had been declared fit to fly by their respective doctors.

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