NEW DELHI :
An Air India flight ferrying foreigners stranded in India to Europe amid a raging pandemic has drawn rare praise from Pakistan, India’s arch-rival and neighbour.
A special flight operated by the national carrier to Frankfurt last week earned a thumbs-up from Pakistan’s Air Traffic Controller (ATC), a senior airline official said. “The flight, evacuating foreign nationals stranded in India, due to the curfew imposed by the government, was praised by Pakistan’s ATC officials,” the official said, requesting anonymity. The national carrier operated two international flights from Mumbai for relief operations and for evacuating foreign nationals stranded in India on 2 April.
One of these flights to Frankfurt, while entering Pakistan airspace, was applauded by the country’s ATC for the humanitarian efforts undertaken by the airline during the outbreak, which has grounded airlines around the world.
“It was a very proud moment for me as well as the entire Air India crew when we heard from Pakistan ATC praising our special flight operations to Europe,” one of the senior captains of the special flights told news agency ANI. “The Pakistan ATC showered praise on Air India stating that ‘We are proud of you that in a pandemic situation you are operating flights,’ Good Luck!” ANI reported, quoting the captain.
Iran ATC also wished them ‘all the best’, ANI reported the Air India captain as saying. “All ATCs from Mumbai to Frankfurt welcomed the special flights of Air India and wished us very proudly,” the captain said, according to the news agency.
After Iran, the special flights went through Turkey and then Germany’s airspace, before reaching its destination.
An Air India spokesperson refused to comment on the matter.
Air India has signed contracts with four countries, Germany, Canada, France, and Ireland, to charter 18 flights, to help citizens of these countries stranded in India because of the lockdown, to go home, the airline’s chairman and managing director, Rajiv Bansal, said last week.