Vande Bharat: Indian Passengers Recall Their Journey Back Home

International repatriation flights: What’s the experience like?

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Recently, India started repatriation flights under the 'Operation Vande Bharat' and is bringing home Indians stranded abroad. The repatriation flights are also running domestically from state to state. We got in touch with passengers from the first few repatriation flights from New York to New Delhi and from Singapore to Mumbai. They told us what the experience was like:

The process was deemed 'smooth' and 'well-planned'

“On the day of the flight we got there around four hours early, and it was pretty crowded. There was a long line, there was also a waitlist, you could not enter the terminal without wearing a mask.” said Arundhati, a returnee from New York.

“They let only twenty people off the plane at a time. So, I had to wait for forty minutes till I got off the plane. It was pretty orderly actually when we got to the Delhi airport. They divided everyone into groups of twenty.”
Arundhati, a returnee from New York.

Noopur, a student of Public Policy in Singapore added, “We were asked to sign health declarations again, and temperature checks were done and even the immigration was a very controlled exercise.”

Problems with downloading Aarogya Setu app

The Aarogya Setu app, a government COVID-19 tracking app which is suppose to alert citizens if they’re near someone with COVID-19 history, is being made mandatory for those returning.

To get off the flight, passengers have to download the app. However, since most of the people did not have an Indian sim card, they didn’t know how to get the required OTP. There was also no Wi-Fi in the plane, causing major delay in the process.

The biggest problem was getting hotels that were affordable

Unlike what most people assumed, the repatriation flights were not free of cost, neither was the hotel where they’ve been quarantined. “This entire hotel mafia had taken over the exit space and we were asked to pick from a list of twelve hotels and the price range was Rs.2,500 a night to around Rs.6,000 a night. The entire exercise was going to cost us around 40 to 60 to 70 thousand rupees including two COVID tests, which would cost us around 9,000 rupees. We were not prepared for this kind of a financial burden”, Noopur pointed out.

Overall, the passengers reported the entire process was well planned, and hope that future flights will not have the same problems with their feedback.

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