New Delhi: Amid the Corona virus pandemic, an Air India special flight carrying 314 Israelis landed in Tel Aviv last evening with many relieved passengers holding the flags of India and Israel thanking the Indian national carrier and its crew for flying them back home in difficult circumstances. The Israeli Embassy in New Delhi had requested help from the Ministry of External Affairs to evacuate the Israeli citizens. Air India recently operated similar rescue flights for Indians stuck in China, Italy, Iran and Spain.
According to a senior official of the airline, the Boeing 777 aircraft departed from Delhi around 4 p.m yesterday. Israel’s Ambassador in New Delhi Ron Malka was at the airport to see off the passengers and thanked Air India for the selfless service.
Air India’s country manager in Tel Aviv Pankaj Tiwari, praised the entire team of ground staff, engineering personnel, catering staff and the crew of the flight who in such difficult circumstances rose to the occasion keeping aside their personal interests to make this flight a reality.
India is on lockdown from 25th of March to 14th of April to curb the spread of the Corona virus. Consequently, domestic and international flights have been suspended too. However, cargo flights, special flights conducted with the approval of aviation regulator DGCA, offshore helicopter operations and medical evacuation flight operations have been exempted from the flight ban imposed in India.
Israel’s national carrier, El Al, had earlier organized two flights from Mumbai to bring back several hundred Israelis stranded in the city. There was a festive spirit among returning passengers both at the airport in Delhi while boarding and at the Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv after deplaning.
Israel is under total lockdown with people not allowed to even walk beyond 100 metres from their homes and have been generally advised to go out only to stock up food.
The returning passengers went through check ups at the airport and would be in self quarantine or special supervision depending on their condition. The number of people infected by Corona virus in Israel went up to 2,666, with eight casualties so far, official sources said.