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India has officially begun ‘Vande Bharat Mission Phase 2.0’ this week. The first flight arrived at Vijayawada Airport on Wednesday evening from Dubai, carrying 65 passengers onboard. Thousands of passengers are expected to arrive daily as repatriation flights ramp up once again.
As countries restrict flight to and from India, Vande Bharat is in the spotlight once again. Photo: Getty Images
Back in action
According to Economic Times, the first flight of Vande Bharat Mission 2.0 (VBM) arrived yesterday. An Air India Express flight carrying 65 passengers landed in Vijayawada Airport as demand for repatriations increases once again.
Vijayawada Airport is expected to get busier in the coming weeks, with 10 weekly international flights. Almost all routes originate in the Middle East, with cities like Muscat, Doha, Dubai, and others seeing direct flights.
Air India Express flies almost exclusively between the Middle East and India, carrying hundreds of thousands of yearly passengers. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr
While Vijayawada has not seen many international flights recently, it was quite busy during the early days of VBM. The airport saw as many as 490 flights during the first phase of repatriations, totaling 55,600 passengers from many countries.
Considering the airport hosts no scheduled international flights (despite its status as an international airport), VBM has a big step forwards. The second edition is likely to bring thousands of more passengers home.
It’s been over a year since the first Vande Bharat repatriation flight arrived in India from Abu Dhabi. Since then, VBM has grown to become a massive project, bringing home a massive 8.9 million Indian residents in 13 months. The mission has been crucial since India has banned all scheduled international flights, with only some flights operating through travel bubbles.
As the mission enters its second year, it has become slightly less essential. Currently, the government marks all Air India flights (even travel bubble flights) as “repatriation,” increasing the number of total travelers. However, the need for repatriations has once again surged in the last two months.
With Indian travelers banned from dozens of destinations, repatriation flights are essential once again. Photo: Getty Images
Since April, India has been struggling with a devastating wave of COVID-19, which has caused millions and cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths. In light of this, dozens of countries have closed their border to Indian travelers and canceled flights. This means that India has had to ramp up repatriations to bring home thousands of stranded citizens due to the ban.
Countries like Australia, Singapore, China, New Zealand, Saudia Arabia, and many others never reopened flights since last year, making VBM flights the only option for many.
When will it end?
Nearly every other country globally stopped its repatriation operations last summer. While there are a few notable exceptions, such as Australia, it remains rare for dozens of daily rescue flights. India’s continued ban on international flights and the dire health situation means that it will be at least a few more months before we see regular flights return to the forway. For now, travel options remain limited.
This article first appeared on simpleflying.com
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