Vande Bharat flight from San Francisco lands in Bengaluru

BENGALURU: Air India’s fifth evacuation flight to Karnataka landed here from San Francisco in the US via New Delhi with 109 passengers, an official said on Friday. “Air India Airbus A320-251N from San Francisco arrived here at 9.20 a.m., with 109 passengers via New Delhi,” an official of the state-run national carrier told IANS here.

The aircraft left the US west coast city on Thursday morning and landed in New Delhi’s international airport early on Friday, where many returnees deboarded before it took off for Bengaluru.

The foreign returnees to the southern state were stranded for overseas for over 50 days due to the suspension of international air services by the government since March 23 and extended lockdown since March 25 to contain the coronavirus spread across the country. The passengers were received by the state health department and the airline officials in the arrival terminal.

The returnees were given new masks to wear and sanitizer to wash their hands and told to maintain social distancing till they exit the airport.

“As per the standard operating procedure and protocols to be observed by all foreign returnees, the passengers were screened and tested to ensure they were asymptomatic and free from the Covid-19 virus,” a state official told IANS. After completing the formalities, the passengers will be ferried in state-run chartered buses in batches for the mandatory 14-day quarantine in star hotels booked for them in the city.

Passengers who did not have an Indian mobile connection were given a new sim card by the local operators. It was activated to download the mandatory quarantine app, the Aroygya Sethu app and Apthamitra app before leaving the airport. As part of the government’s evacuation programme ‘Vande Bharat Mission’, Air India operated five flights to the southern state, including four to Bengaluru and one to Mangaluru on the west coast off the Arabian Sea.

Of the 800 returnees to the state till date, 623 landed in Bengaluru in four flights since Monday and 177 in Mangaluru port city, about 360km away, on Tuesday. The first evacuation flight to the state was from London on May 11, with 326 returnees, including three infants.

The second flight was an Air-India Express on May 12 to Bengaluru from Singapore, with 42 passengers. The third repatriation flight landed at Mangaluru from Dubai on May 12, with 177 passengers. The fourth flight landed in this tech city from Singapore on May 13, with 146 returnee