Lufthansa Group has offered to fly empty flights to India and only carry passengers to destinations in Europe on their outbound flights, senior government officials said on Tuesday, 9th June 2020.
Since 23rd March 2020, in India scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. There is therefore a pent-up demand for international outbound travel, especially among non-resident Indians (NRIs) who are in a hurry to return either for personal or professional reasons.
"Lufthansa group (which operates airline brands like Lufthansa, SWISS, etc) have offered to fly ferry (empty) flights to India and carry passengers only on its outbound flights to destinations in Europe. A decision is yet to be taken on this matter," said the senior government official.
Vande Bharat Mission was launched by the Civil Aviation Ministry on 7th May 2020, to bring back stranded Indians from abroad on flights operated by the Air India group amid the coronavirus lockdown. The Air India group has also made bookings on its outbound flights and demand has been enormous for some destinations.
Global airlines have conducted non-scheduled repatriation flights since 23rd March 2020, to carry their stranded people back home.
Lufthansa did not respond to the Press Trust of India 's request for a comment.
The offer from the German airlines' group Lufthansa came at a time when the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in India, particularly in metro cities with the biggest airports in the country, such as Delhi and Mumbai.
State governments in the past have expressed reluctance to deal with large numbers of incoming flyers because they have swamped their health systems with a growing number of COVID-19 events.
For example, when scheduled domestic passenger flights began operating on 25th May 2020, Mumbai airport was allowed to handle only 50 flights per day, as requested by the government of Maharashtra.
Similarly, from 28th May 2020 onwards, Kolkata airport was allowed to handle just 20 flights per day, as demanded by the government of West Bengal.
More than 2.46 lakh people have been infected and around 7,400 people have died due to COVID-19 in India till now.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said on 7th June 2020, that India will take a decision on resumption of international passenger flights as soon as countries ease restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals. Many major countries like Japan and Singapore have put significant restrictions on the entry of foreigners amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On 1st June 2020, Mr. Puri had said that several factors like the lockdown in metro cities and the ban imposed by various countries on the entry of foreigners need to be addressed before resuming international passenger flights in India.
The fares on these special flights are more than the fares charged on regularly scheduled services. For instance, Lufthansa group's one-way Mumbai to Zurich and Frankfurt fares start at Rs 39,743 and Rs 38,273, respectively.
India has suspended scheduled international services till the month-end, for now. India recently allowed corporates and organizations to hire international charters to fly in countrymen stranded abroad. It also allowed some categories of foreigners to fly in here on charters.