Thursday 25 February 2021 8:30 AM UTC
By A Staff Reporter
LONDON Feb 25: Air India started to operate direct London-Kochi-London flight service from August 2020 as part of the Vande Bharat Mission. There were flight connecting London and Kochi directly, each Friday and Sunday. The bi-weekly service became so popular that Air India later increased the number of flights to three later.
However, due to the new variant of Covid Air India had put an end to this service. This resulted in travellers to Kerala having to disembark at one of the other airports to make their journey to Kerala.
This had brought about a huge hardship and put huge financial pressure on the Kerala community in the UK. Those who had to travel to Kerala for emergency situations had to disembark at one of the four airports to which there are direct flights and then follow the Covid protocols of that state. By the time they have reached Kerala they would have spent so much on Covid tests and also faced severe hardships.
If any of the passengers arriving at Delhi Airport or any other Indian International airport from the UK are found to be Covid Positive, upon subsequent inspection, the other passengers will also have to be quarantined, which can cause a lot of unexpected problems for passengers. Quarantine is to be carried by the fellow passengers traveling three rows forward and three rows back of the passenger confirmed to be Covid positive. An traveller from UK loses an extra two weeks unexpectedly and has to pay at least half a lakh rupees for this alone.
Union of UK Malayalee Associations (UUKMA), an umbrella organisation of Keralite organisations in UK, has submitted urgent petitions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri and Union Minister V Muraleedharan from Kerala.
The UUKMA office bearers National President Manoj Kumar Pillai, General Secretary Alex Varghese and Vice President Adv. Eby Sebastian has also requested the Indian government for a permanent solution to the crisis by restoring direct flights to Kerala. In addition to flights from London to Kochi, the launch of services to Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode is also something they want the government to actively consider.
Close on the heels two voluntary organisations UK Pravasi Help Desk and Nanma UK have also made contacts with Indian government and raised the issues that are faced by Keralites in UK who are travelling to Kerala.
UK Pravasi Help Desk and Nanma UK press note said: “It was not only a blessing but a great relief to all those stranded in the UK due to the sudden pandemic and who wanted get back home as early as possible. The direct flights were so convenient especially to those who were pregnant, vulnerable and aged parents including those who needed medical attention back home.
“The sudden and unexpected withdrawal of direct flight to Kochi by the Govt of India has created lot of concern and hardship to the already suffering Malayalee Community in the UK. The number of people who wants to get back home are increasing day by day with a hope of recommencement of the direct flight to Kochi as they have to undergo various Covid regulations at two airports if they take an indirect flight to Kochi.
The letter to Indian government concluded by saying: “Taking into consideration of the plight of the Malayalee Community in the UK and as two voluntary organisations who have been looking after their welfare all through the pandemic, we humbly request you to restart the direct flight to Kochi at the earliest to ease the difficulties and hardship”.
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