Ukraine crisis: Air India's flights land in Delhi with 489 returnees; private carriers step in
New Delhi, Feb 28: Air India's two evacuation flights came from Romanian capital Bucharest and Hungarian capital Budapest to Delhi on Monday with 489 Indian nationals who were stranded in Ukraine after the Russian military offensive, officials said. Other private carriers such as SpiceJet, IndiGo and Air India Express have also sent their planes to the two cities for evacuation of Indians as the Ukraine airspace is closed.
India began the evacuation of its citizens from Romania and Hungary - western neighbours of Ukraine - on Saturday and the Tata Group-owned Air India has brought back 1,396 Indian nationals in six evacuation flights till now. On Monday, the fifth Air India flight landed in Delhi from Bucharest with 249 Indian nationals, while the sixth flight arrived from Budapest here with 240 Indian nationals, officials said. Around 14,000 Indians, mainly college students, are currently stranded in Ukraine. SpiceJet said it will use its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for this special flight that will depart from Delhi Monday evening.
"The aircraft will fly to Budapest from Delhi and the return flight will operate via Kutaisi, Georgia," it mentioned. SpiceJet said it is planning to operate more evacuation flights and is in discussion with the authorities concerned. Tata Group-owned Air India Express said it will operate a Bucharest-Mumbai flight Monday night with 182 stranded passengers. "The flight will have a stopover in Kuwait for refuelling. It will land in Mumbai at 9:30 AM tomorrow (Tuesday)," it added. IndiGo said it is operating two evacuation flights using A321 aircraft to bring back the Indian citizens safely following the crisis in Ukraine. Both the flights will land in Delhi on Tuesday, it noted.
"These flights are being operated from Delhi to Bucharest, Romania and to Budapest, Hungary via Istanbul, today, as part of the Indian government's Operation Ganga mission," it mentioned. India's largest airline said it is closely liaising with the government to offer its support for more such evacuations flights. Later during the day, IndiGo said it will send four more planes on Tuesday to evacuate stranded Indian citizens. "Two flights each will be operated from Delhi to Budapest, Hungary and to Rzeszow, Poland via Istanbul, respectively. These aircraft will depart Delhi on March 1," it noted.
The Indian Embassy in Ukraine stated on Monday that the weekend curfew has been lifted in Kyiv and all students are advised to make their way to the railway station for onward journey to the western parts of the country. "Ukraine Railways putting special trains for evacuations. We sincerely request all Indian nationals/students to remain calm, peaceful and united," it mentioned. A large crowd can be expected at the railway stations, therefore, it is advised that all Indian students remain patient, composed and not exhibit aggressive behaviour while at the railway stations, it noted.
"We expect delays in trains' schedule, even cancellation at times and long queues," it mentioned. Indian students are requested to carry their passport, sufficient cash, ready-to-eat meals, easy accessible winter clothing and only essential items, to ensure easy mobility, it stated. Be mindful of your belongings at all times, it advised. "Ukrainians - both civilians and authorities - have been remarkably supportive in facilitating evacuation efforts of Indian citizens, especially considering these critical and dangerous times. You are all requested to respect this sentiment," it noted. PTI