When officials from the Indian High Commission first reached out to Indian citizens stranded in Malaysia, they told them that they should be ready to pay anywhere between Rs 19,000-22,000 per person to reach Bengaluru.With the average ticket pre-coronavirus costing anywhere between 600-800 Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) or Rs 10,000-14,000, this inflation was accepted by the potential fliers, desperate to return.However, a few days before the first Kuala Lampur-Bengaluru flight was to depart on 19 May, passengers received messages asking them to pay 1890 MYR or Rs 32,000 per ticket. With several people having lost their jobs or having resigned just before flights stopped worldwide, such a large amount was difficult to come by.Fliers complained that there was no clarity on how the passenger list was made and claimed ‘those who can pay large amounts will be given priority’.At Bengaluru Govt Quarantine: No COVID-19 Test Yet, Shared Rooms“They think we are kings, but we were living hand to mouth there. Moreover, there is only one flight. You cannot challenge the rates,” said Manoj Singh, who returned from Kuala Lampur to Delhi on a 14 May flight, paying Rs 20,000 approximately.Recently, returnees who had arrived on a special train from New Delhi were sent back by authorities after they kicked up a fuss over entering mandatory institutional quarantine.‘No Clear Communication From Air India or High Commission’Passengers said communication with the aviation company and the Indian authorities in Kuala Lampur had not yet been of any use. Instead of being able to pay for their tickets directly on an Air India portal or at the airport counter – in the second phase of flights – people are being asked to go through a designated travel agent.Radheshyam and his family, who will be returning to Bengaluru on a 19 May flight, said that he was alarmed when he saw the revised ticket fare.“For one person, the amount zoomed to Rs 32,000. I will have to spend nearly Rs 1 lakh to fly my family back. We tried raising this with Air India as well as high commission but it seems they both have washed their hands off the matter,” he said.Fearing that not paying for the tickets immediately would cost them, most people ended up paying the astronomical fares. Upon landing in India, they will be put in mandatory institutional quarantine, paid or free depending on people’s finances. Multiple people The Quint spoke to were out of a job and had not been paid for months.SOS Calls, Anxiety & Panic Grips Indians in UK Over RepatriationMoreover, concerned fliers noted that seats had also been reserved on the same flight to Bengaluru, for people travelling to Ahmedabad, 1500 kms away.“How can they charge the same amount from fliers for both destinations?” one asked.In phase 1, tickets from KL to Trichy was MYR 806 or Rs 14,000. One had to spend Rs 19,000 to fly to Hyderabad. In phase 2, the KL-Trichy ticket cost is reportedly Rs 32,500 and the Hyderabad ticket cost is Rs 27,500, according to Indians living in Kuala Lampur.‘Need Atleast Rs 50-60,000 in Hand to Return Home’Dipayan, who is also set to return with his wife and child, said that he is nearly out of money, after staying in Kuala Lampur for the last three months without a job.A software engineer who came on a contract basis in April 2019, said that because of lack of flight options, people were at the government’s mercy.“They are not leaving even a single seat, but placing people on waitlist even after the list has been prepared. Without any notice, the fares were increased from Rs 19,000 approximate that we had been told to pay. We also have been paying rent which is non-negotiable and on top of that, the ticket prices doubled. We are in a lot of pain,” he said.Adding that fraud was rampant in the ticket booking process, Dipayan said that there were many poorer people, who would have to rely on charity to gather the ticket amount. “For many people, it is out of budget. They have to wait for government’s mercy. The visa laws are also very strict and you cannot stay if it expires,” he said.K’taka Govt Sends Back Returnees Unable to Pay For Quarantine People living in Kuala Lampur said that only a small percentage of total stranded people had been evacuated so far. Several people had quit their jobs and expected to leave, before the coronavirus lockdown happened.“There are 300 odd people that I know of, hoping that their name will figure in the list. Till 2 hours before the flight, there is hope that we can get a ticket. I have not worked since March. At the most, I will last one more month if I don’t get to go back,” said Sheetal, a native of Hubballi in Karnataka.‘No Social Distancing but Gave PPE’Fliers returning from Kuala Lampur said that while there had been no social distancing maintained on the flights itself, ie every seat was occupied, passengers were given kits with food and PPE.“Every passenger received adequate food, as well as some gear. There was a face shield, gloves and a mask provided,” said Manoj Singh.In an email response to The Quint’s queries, a representative of the High Commission wrote that “the ticketing rates/modalities for purchase of tickets have been decided by Ministry of Civil Aviation and Air India/Air India Express ”.“ Under Vande Bharat Mission flights, HCI, KL is assisting in the return of such standed Indians, by prioritising those registered with us, based on reasons provided by such individuals at the time of registration. Priority is being given to people in distress including migrant workers/labourers who have been laid off, short term visas holders faced with expiry of visas, persons with medical emergency, chronic illness, pregnant women/senior citizens, those required to return to India due to death of close family members etc,” read the response.(The Quint has reached out to Air India for comment. The report will be updated if and when they respond) We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.