After announcing £75 million to bring home thousands of Britons stranded in various countries, the Boris Johnson government on Sunday announced the first wave of charter flights for those in India, who number over 20,000 in various states.
The flights will depart for London from Goa on April 8, 10 and 12, from Mumbai on April 9 and 11 and from New Delhi on April 9 and 11. The flights cost each adult £681 from Goa, £600 from Mumbai and £581 from Delhi; infants under the age of 2 will travel free.
Jan Thompson, acting high commissioner to India, said: “We know how worrying the past few weeks have been for British nationals in India. I hope this announcement will bring relief, especially to those in greatest need”.
“Due to the large numbers of British travellers involved, the scale of this operation is huge. The UK Government continues to work hard with our Indian counterparts in New Delhi and London to arrange a safe journey back for as many people as possible”.
Officials said the charter flights are for UK travellers who normally reside in the UK and their direct dependants. A number of seats will be reserved for those deemed vulnerable. On Saturday, 113 of the most vulnerable British nationals left Goa on an Irish flight.
Foreign Office minister Tariq Ahmad said: “In the absence of commercial flights, these first charter flights from India should provide relief to some of our British travellers who are desperate to return home, especially for the most vulnerable and those in greatest need”.
In view of the restrictions on movement in India, Britons travelling to airports from where the charter flights will depart are asked to carry a letter called the ‘British movement letter’ in English (also translated in 9 languages) to show to Indian authorities.
It says: “All Indian authorities are hereby requested to provide holders of British passport or resident permits with safe passage, without delay or detention, to their port of departure in India”.
“For this purpose all Indian authorities are further requested to exempt holders of British passports or resident permits from any restrictions on public movement or crossing of State or District boundaries currently imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Officials said there are an estimated 35,000 Britons currently in India, of whom over 20,000 are keen to return home.