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Flight from Amsterdam with 100 Indians barred from landing in Delhi

Published : Saturday, 21 March, 2020 at 10:00 PM  Count : 338

File photo of Dutch airline KLM aircrafts. For representational purposes only.   | Photo Credit: AFP

File photo of Dutch airline KLM aircrafts. For representational purposes only. | Photo Credit: AFP

A flight from Amsterdam to Delhi carrying 100 Indian passengers, including a pregnant woman, was not allowed to land in Delhi on Saturday amid coronavirus pandemic.

Prevailing confusion among government authorities over its own advisory led to this problem according to airport officials.

“[There were] some gaps in interpreting the advisory, which has led to this problem,” a senior official said.
Indicating that the government will try to resolve the issue on Saturday, the official informed that with less than 24 hours to a complete flight ban being put into place, the Hindu reports.

The flight, KLM 871, was due to land in Delhi around one in the morning on Saturday, but was “redirected” back to Amsterdam by civil aviation authorities when it was flying over Russia, a flight path of the plane shows. It was carrying passengers in transit at Schipol Airport who had flown in from the US and Canada to catch a connecting flight.

Although flights carrying passengers from The Netherlands and other European Union countries have been prohibited since March 18, the KLM airlines flight operated on an assurance by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) which maintained that the advisory was not for transit passengers.

After the flight took off from Amsterdam at 12.40 pm local time, officials in the Ministry of Civil Aviation got into a huddle to look at a request from the MEA. Officials took a hard look at their advisory issued on March 16 and concluded that all passengers from Europe, were barred from entering India, regardless of what their port of origin was, said officials in the know.

A government official explained that the aircraft was forced to return because of “inter-ministry confusion”. While Ministry of Civil Aviation maintains that the advisory applies to all travelling from or via Europe, the Ministry of External Affairs has maintained that it doesn’t affect transit passengers.

In addition, the flight was being run to Delhi in order to evacuate Dutch nationals before the government’s ban on all flights comes into effect on March 22.
“The flight was forced to return despite [civil aviation authorities] being told that the flight was bringing transit passengers from North America,” an MEA source said, adding that DGCA had also been informed that elderly people and children were on board.

The flight has now returned to Amsterdam, and it is unclear where the Indian passengers will be kept or about the fate of Dutch nationals waiting to be flown home, who are in Delhi at present.

Among those travelling was a pregnant woman from Mumbai, whose husband and sister-in-law tweeted a number of appeals to the government as the flight spent more than 10 harrowing hours in the air. “My wife is six months pregnant and requires special assistance,” wrote her husband, Tejas Deepak Vaspute. “Due to all travel and transit, she had some stress-induced contractions and is admitted to University Hospital,” added his sister Bhamini Vaspute, who added that officials of the Indian embassy in Netherlands were assisting her.

The Hindu had reported on a number of Indian passengers left stranded in various capitals worldwide because of what Ministry of External Affairs officials called a “misinterpretation” of travel advisories issued by the government on March 10,11,16,17 and 19, by various airlines and international airport authorities.

The Hindu/ALM

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