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Air India doubles its international network during Covid

Published : Monday, 27 September, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 126

NEW DELHI, Sept 26: Air India has spread its wings far and wide during the pandemic by operating flights to 81 international destinations - more than double from 39 in pre-Covid times. Under the Vande Bharat Mission that started last summer, the AI Group (including AI Express) has till Saturday (Sept 25) operated about 35,000 flights (counting a return trip from India as two flights) flying 19 lakh passengers out of India and 25 lakh into the country.
"A small group of dedicated officers have kept the revenue coming in under extremely difficult situation since last March. They are the unsung heroes, coordinating with foreign governments, airports, agents and ground handlers," said a person in the know who has been coordinating these flights. This despite steep wage cuts and delayed payment of the same - on top of huge uncertainty over the airline's future if the airline is not sold off.
In the early hours of Sunday, AI was informed by Canada that direct flights from India can resume. "We are beginning Canada flights with the first nonstops from Delhi to Vancouver and Toronto going to operate within hors of getting this last-minute clearance. This is all due to the efforts of our heroes," said the official.
During the pandemic AI has operated to 81 destinations in 56 countries. While scheduled international flights were suspended last March-end, AI's operation Covid started about two months earlier when it flew two jumbo from Delhi to Covid epicentre Wuhan to bring back Indians, mostly students, from there. A number of frontline workers of AI and other airlines including the pilots, cabin crew, ground staff and others have been infected by the virus and some lost their lives to it.
A senior pilot said: "Since the outbreak of Covid when not much was known about this dreaded virus, none of us even thought twice before operating flights to hotspots like Wuhan, Italy and Paris early last summer. We were told it's an unknown risk but we operated those flights as a national duty to come to the rescue of our compatriots who were stuck in different parts of the world."
During Covid AI flew to distant places like Auckland and Vancouver, where no Indian airliner had gone before. "Love us or hate us, but you will surely miss us in times of adversity if there is no AI around then," said an airline old-timer.




In the coming weeks the outcome of the divestment process will be know, with founder Tata Group and SpiceJet promoter Ajay Singh (in his personal capacity) the contenders for the Maharaja. The Tata Group is widely seen to get the airline back.    -TNN




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