KOLKATA: A British Airways flight landed in Kolkata on Sunday afternoon, marking the touchdown by a direct flight from Europe after 12 years. But far from ringing in cheer, the arrival was met with stark silence and the mood at the airport was sombre as 160 passengers, including three infants, boarded the flight to return home to the UK that is still in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Boeing B777-200 aircraft with 336 seats touched down at Kolkata airport around 4pm on Sunday as part of a massive 12-flight operation undertaken by the British High Commission in India to repatriate its citizens who have been stranded in different parts of India since international and domestic flight services were suspended.
The last time BA flew to Kolkata was in 2008. The service was withdrawn citing commercial reasons. Though there were enough passengers to fill the flight, its first and business class seats on the sector didn’t fill up, leading to low yield. Ironically, when the aviation market reopens around the world, fewer seats will be occupied on planes to maintain social distancing norms and fare in economy class is expected to be as expensive as those in premium class.
According to airport sources, the 160 UK citizens were screened at the airport for fever before being allowed to proceed to the check-in counters. The CISF personnel, armed with full personal protection equipment gear, frisked them. The group then sat in a restaurant in the security hold area before boarding the home-bound flight.
The plane took off from Kolkata airport at 6.30pm but did not proceed directly to London. Instead, it made a technical stop in Delhi before taking off again for Bahrain, from where it will fly to London. Nick Lowe, the British deputy high commissioner to Kolkata, said British nationals from east and northeast were repatriated in the flight organised by the UK government.
The Times of India News App for Latest City News
Start Your Daily Mornings with Times of India Newspaper! Order Now