New Delhi: Amid the coronavirus crisis that has crippled nations across the world, Air India recently received unexpected praise from Pakistan's Air Traffic Controller (ATC) for running special flights to Frankfurt in Germany. The national carrier covered thousands of miles in special evacuation flights for European and Canadian citizens stuck in India due to the national lockdown.
Air India operated two flights — a Boeing-777 and a 787 — carrying evacuated Europeans stuck in India along with relief materials from Mumbai and New Delhi.
As one of the flights entered Pakistani airspace, the country's ATC welcomed the captain with 'Assalaam Alaikum', reported news agency ANI.
"'Assalaam Alaikum!' This is Karachi's control welcoming Air India for relief flights to Frankfurt," said Pakistan's ATC.
After getting clearance through Pakistan's Flight Information Region, the captains also received praise for running the evacuation flights. "We are proud of you that in a pandemic situation you are operating flights, good luck!" said the ATC.
"It was a very proud moment for me as well as the entire Air India crew when we heard the Pakistan ATC praising our special flight operations to Europe," said the flight's senior captain.
After the captain told Pakistan's ATC he was unable to get the radar signals for the Iranian airspace, the Pakistani ATC conveyed the flight's position to the airspace in Tehran and provided them the flight details of the aircraft.
Not just Pakistan, Iran also wished the captains of both flights good luck when they reached Tehran.
For the first time, Iran allowed a foreign carrier to operate a direct route over 1,000 miles within its airspace that is strictly reserved for defence purposes only.
"For the first time in my entire career as a pilot, Iran gave a direct routing for about 1,000 miles, a privilege enjoyed as special flights, in all especially in the recent tense situation in the Iranian airspace," said the Air India captain.
After Iran, the Indian flights entered the Turkey airspace and then Germany. All the ATCs from Mumbai till Frankfurt conveyed their best wishes to the captains.
The entire crew on both flights was well equipped with the mandatory COVID-19 coveralls and wore them for 20 hours, including the ground time in India and Frankfurt. The crew members and the pilots are now in self-quarantine for 14 days.