Air India halts bookings till Apr 30, flies 112 French nationals from Kochi

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Kochi: A total of 112 French nationals stuck in Kerala since the lockdown began was flown out on a special Air India flight from here on Saturday morning, said airport officials.

The special Air India flight arrived from Bengaluru with passengers and after picking the French nationals here, left for Mumbai, where more of them are waiting to travel to France.

The Embassy of France had made a request to the Kerala government to facilitate the journey of the French citizens stranded due to the lockdown announced by the central government to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.
The French citizens, mostly tourists and those who came for Ayurvedic treatment, were brought here by the state tourism department 24 days ahead of their trip.
They underwent a medical examination before boarding the flight for Paris from Cochin International Airport at 08.13 am on Saturday, officials said.

In the past few days similar flights were operated to ferry German and Omani nationals from Kerala who had come to the state either as tourists or for health checkups and ayurveda treatments.

Cochin airport officials expressed their intent that they are ready to do similar operations to fly out other nationals who are stuck in the state.

National carrier Air India has halted bookings for flights till April 30. According to sources, the airline is awaiting clarity from the Centre, on whether or not the lockdown deadline of April 14 will be extended.

The airline, sources said, is awaiting written instructions. At present, no foreign or domestic passenger flight operations are allowed till the deadline of April 14. On Thursday, Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said that domestic airlines are free to accept ticket bookings for flights that will be operated post the current lockdown deadline.

According to the senior official, the current lockdown period is till the midnight of April 14 and if this is not extended then these bookings will be honoured.

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