Air India, the national air carrier designated by Ministry of Civil Aviation to undertake the Mission Vande Bharat to repatriate Indian citizens stuck abroad due to COVID-19 lockdown has silently slashed the prices of its tickets to countries like the US and Canada.
Mission Vande Bharat, which is in its fourth phase now is the largest of its kind evacuation drive to repatriate citizens stuck abroad due to ban on scheduled commercial international flights.
The fourth phase of Mission Vande Bharat started on July 3 and will go on till July 31. Incidentally, July 31 is also the date till when government has extended the ban on scheduled international airlines.
Under the fourth edition of drive, Air India will be operating more than 40 flights to the US and Canada. While the prices for the tickets in the previous editions of Mission Vande Bharat exceeded Rs 1 Lakh, they have now been slashed by upto 40 percent.
Our research found that Air India is selling Delhi- Washington flight ticket for Rs 75,422 for a single seat as against Rs 1.03 Lakh in the third phase of repatriation drive, a 25 percent reduction in prices.
Not only this, the tickets to Canada (Toronto) has been reduced drastically to a tune of 45 percent. While Air India was earlier selling the tickets for more than Rs 1.40 Lakh, it is now priced as low as Rs 75,000. However, most of the tickets are already sold and there are only few seats left.
Many people voiced their opinion on Twitter regarding the high ticket prices for the evacuation flights. "Some people" have raised concerns about the rates being charged by Air India for the special Vande Bharat flights, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri noted.
Replying to their concern, Minister Puri said that the ticket prices set by Air India for special international flights being operated under the Vande Bharat Mission are reasonable. "While rates being charged are not normal commercial rates, they are reasonable when compared to evacuation flights of other countries on the same sectors," said Minister Puri justifying the high prices in Twitter.
He also gave examples of fares charged by other countries to show that Air India's rates are reasonable. "Economy fare paid by travellers for evacuation flights organised by the concerned (US) Embassy from India was Rs 3.00 lakhs for Houston. Indians pay 1.03 lakh on India-US sector (flights) under the Vande Bharat mission which is nearly one third," Puri mentioned.
Similarly, travellers paid 1.62 lakhs to Toronto and 1.84 lakhs to Vancouver for evacuation flights organised from India by the Canadian High Commission, the minister said.
While scheduled domestic passenger flights resumed on May 25 after a gap of two months, scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India till July 31.