New Delhi: To rescue the strangled students and Indian nationals in Ukraine who have managed to reach the Ukraine-Romania border, Indian government has scheduled two Air India flights to leave for Bucharest on Friday evening.
“The situation is very dynamic. Bringing back Indians safely from Ukraine is a key priority of the government and this is being monitored at the highest level by Prime Minister Modi. Every possible attempt is being made,” said people in the know.
Accordingly, Air India has kept two Boeing 787s and crew along with support staff like a small team of security personnel and engineers.
The government is making all other essential arrangements like taking Indians from Ukraine who manage to reach Romania border in their care and bring them to Bucharest.
“The situation on the ground and in the region is fluid. As soon as everything required, including all needed overflying permissions, fall in place, the planes will leave,” said sources.
Kyiv is under attack and its airspace has been declared “restricted” for civilian flights. So the only other option as of now is that Indians there reach borders with neighbouring east European countries and be brought back from there.
Air India’s second evacuation flight to Kyiv had to return to Delhi from over Iran on Thursday.
A notice to airmen (NOTAM) had been issued before AI 1947 left Delhi around 7.50 am, restricting civilian flight movement in Kyiv airspace due to military activity in the region. Since the airspace was not declared out of bounds, AI sent the flight so that if it could be assured that the Dreamliner can land safely there, it will be able to bring Indians back home to safety.
Tata Sons’ Air India was in touch with the government for ascertaining the ground situation. Unfortunately, the same deteriorated swiftly and the crew were asked to return to Delhi soon after the Boeing 787 had entered the Iranian airspace from Pakistan.
This was second of the several Delhi-Kyiv-Delhi flights the airline planned to operate this week to fly back Indians from Ukraine.
The announced flight of February 26 and other that were being planned for February 27, 28 and March 1 have been kept in abeyance, say people in the know.
AI had operated a Delhi-Kyiv-Delhi flight on Tuesday. Even that had to make last-minute route changes while entering Kyiv airspace from over the Black Sea and then during approach to the Boryspil International Airport, due to military activity in the region.
Many Indian students in Ukraine had left the country on Ukraine International Airlines, and one-stop options that existed like Qatar Airways, flyDubai, Emirates and other Gulf carriers, several thousand are still stranded there.
More flights will be operated as per the advice of the external affairs ministry depending on where it is able to arrange getting Indians to some nearby east European nation where then planes could be despatched.