I am a medical student studying in my fourth year in Ufa, Russia. I landed in Russia four years ago in 2016. I am originally from Sikar, Rajasthan. Things were going fine and like any other year, I was schedule to travel to India sometime mid-year. Well till COVID-19 happened!
Within weeks, coronavirus cases in Russia increased and currently it has recorded more than 6 lakh cases. It has the third-highest number of infections behind the United States and Brazil.
I started to hear similar news from India and to be honest, I was concerned about my family and wished to be with them during this difficult time. Thankfully, beginning May the Indian government launched Vande Bharat Mission – Air India flights to repatriate its citizens from across the globe amid COVID pandemic.
Finally, I’ll get to go home, I thought, but Russia was not included in the first phase. Many like me had to wait longer. In the second phase, when repatriation flights from Moscow were scheduled there was a lot of chaos and confusion. Thousands of students had applied to the Indian Embassy. Only those students who received confirmation mails from the airlines were certain that they would be going home.
Yay For Flights, Nay For Price
As the flights took off, I too decided to book my ticket for Jaipur. But little did I expect to see the exorbitant ticket fares that made these repatriation flights unaffordable, especially for students.
My Air India flight ticket from Moscow to Jaipur for 29 June was priced at Rs 50,500 one-way (The Quint has a copy of the Air India e-ticket from Moscow to Jaipur). I kept staring at my computer screen for minutes and even considered not going home looking at the prices. But staying here till December did not seem like a viable option for me. I know so many of my friends who are not going because of this very reason.
Under normal circumstances, when I used to travel around the same time of the year, my Aeroflot flight ticket would cost me around Rs 35,000 to 40,000 round trip.
The repatriation flight also includes some tax of Rs 11,605. I don’t know what is this tax for and why I am paying for it. It is not just me who felt the pinch, many of my friends who booked the tickets didn’t understand the reason behind such a move.
This is just the flight ticket I am talking about. This does not include the quarantine facility that I would need to pay once I land in India. It also does not take into consideration the travel expense that I would need to pay to reach Moscow for the flight. Ufa to Moscow is 1,354 km, so I also need to figure out my expense and the best mode of commuting to Moscow.
I have my flight in few days, so naturally, I’m pretty curious about the travel arrangement and Vande Bharat Mission. I spoke to some of my friends who are now in India back home. They told me that the airlines do not maintain any social distancing in the plane.
It’s just a regular flight with extra premium fare.
They also told me that at Domodedovo Moscow Airport, only thermal scans were carried out.
I would be really grateful if the government could reconsider the fare of repatriation flights. If I am paying so much then the facilities should also be provided. But unfortunately that is not the case. Also, due to high cost many cannot even consider returning home which is unfair.
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