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Tuesday 9 June 2020

International Flights, stranded NRIs, hoping for a seat on rescue Flights, allege harassment at the hands of Airlines.

While the Centre is yet to decide on resuming International Flights, stranded NRIs, 
hoping for a seat on rescue Flights, allege harassment at the hands of Airlines.

Ever since domestic operations resumed on May 25, people have been asking about the start of internationals operations. 
Clarity on the start of international operations from the government is, however, awaited.
On June 8, Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Puri tweeted that the global situation is far from normal.
“Due to increase demand for resumption of scheduled international Flights by people who want to travel abroad due to compelling reasons, I reviewed the state of international Flight operations around the world. Globally the situation is far from normal. Most countries have less than 10% international operations because they are allowing entry only to their own citizens and have placed restrictions on foreign nationals. Many are allowing inbound Flights from few countries but have also placed restrictions of quarantine/isolation,” the Union minister tweeted.
While restrictions are in place, passengers are still hopeful. Some have expressed disappointment and alleged harassment at the hands of Airlines.
Palvannan Muthu Pillai is one such non-resident Indian who has not been able to fly out for nearly three months.
Pillai, who has a permanent residency of Canada, came to India to cover the IPL. He is now desperate to get back to his wife and 6-year-old son in Vancouver. Speaking to India Today TV, Pillai said he was able to book a Flight on Lufthansa from Mumbai to Canada via Frankfurt for June 7. He said he spent Rs 98,000 plus on the ticket and did a web check in on the morning of June 6 -- happy that finally he would be with his family.
“When I reached the Mumbai Airport, I was not allowed to even enter the Airport as Lufthansa staff said permanent residents were not allowed to fly according to DGCA rules, and it’s on a case to case basis which they will decide. While I understand the rule, why did Lufthansa didn’t mention the same at the time of booking or web check-in. They were unprofessional and rude enough and asked me to leave. I tried to show them the Hardeep Singh Puri’s tweet where he said that anyone with clear documents and allowed at the port of final destination are free to fly with any Airlines flying in this situation,” Pillai said.
“There was a group from Surat, a senior citizen from Hyderabad who took a Flight that morning, a couple from Bengaluru travelling with a 10-month-old who is a citizen of USA while the parents were Green card holders. All these people weren’t allowed, it seemed the staff at Lufthansa themselves were not aware of rules and regulations.”
Another passenger who was refused entry to the Airport said, “We waited at the Airport for six hours and asked why the Flight took off without us. The Airport staff did not tell us anything and just asked us to leave.”
Miffed at the attitude of the Airlines, Pillai has written a letter to DGCA and the aviation ministry, asking why rules are not mentioned on the website and why wasn’t the issue flagged during web check-in.
An order issued June 1, 2020 states: Only those persons shall be allowed to travel to the destination countries who are citizens of that country, who have a green card or OCI card.
Pillai says the Airline has now refused refund and instead is offering a credit voucher. “These Airlines are looting people. They people buy tickets at a higher price knowing they won’t be allowed to fly and forcing them to fly with them when the international Flights resume so that they can make money.”
Responding to allegations, Lufthansa Airlines said, “the German Embassy has obtained approval for Lufthansa to operate two relief Flights to and from Mumbai. The approval includes all EU nationals and EU residents, as well as US and Canadian nationals and their spouses (including Indian spouses). However, unfortunately we do not have the permission by the Indian government to fly Indian citizens to the US and Canada yet, even if they hold a working/residence permit for these countries.”
On allegations that there isn’t enough clarity on the rules on the website Lufthansa said, “We would have included the government restriction that we are not allowed to fly Indian citizens to the US and Canada as part of the online check-in process to obtain your boarding pass. However, we ask for our customers’ understanding that there was not sufficient time as the restrictions were unilaterally set by the Indian authorities at short notice earlier this week.”
On refund, the Airline said, “ given the very special circumstances and we will be looking into this as quickly as possible.”

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