Kerala has categorically stated that charter flights repatriating stranded Indians to the state will not be allowed to charge more than the ticket fares prescribed for special repatriation flights under the Indian government’s Vande Bharat Mission, said Indian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Pavan Kapoor on June 1. He said that the state government has imposed a new fare ceiling condition for charter flights carrying stranded Indians to the state. “Kerala has informed the MEA [Ministry of External Affairs] that in future charter flights to the state would require the charterer to give an undertaking by the operator that they will not be charging more than the government fare in the repatriation flights,” he said.
“Anybody who is now wishing to charter flights to Kerala will have to meet this clause as the state will not give approval otherwise,” he clarified.
KMCC arranges flights
Two flights to Kerala on June 2 and 3 chartered by the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) in the UAE are charging Dh1,250 per ticket and will fly 160 passengers each, according to the organisation’s UAE president Puthu Rahman. The average fare on Air India Express repatriation flights to Kerala is Dh725.
These repatriation flights are being operated from Ras Al Khaimah since airport handling charges are higher in Dubai and Sharjah airports, he said.
“We are giving free tickets to 10 per cent of the distressed passengers. We are willing to help those who genuinely need help. But it is not practically possible to keep the fares on a par with that of the national carrier.”
He said KMCC will try to re-negotiate with the airline companies to further reduce the fare and seek state government’s approval in future.
Repatriation so far
Around 16,000 Indians have been repatriated in 80 flights as part of the Vande Bharat mission, according to the Indian missions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The second phase of the mission is now under way.
Officials said 10,271 Indians had been flown home from Dubai while 5,642 were repatriated from Abu Dhabi. The Consulate in Dubai has also arranged to send 42 mortal remains.
Around 350,000 Indians have applied to the embassy and consulate for help to return home, according to embassy officials.