Hire a flight to go home

Muscat: Travel agents in association with a few airlines are planning to operate chartered flights from Muscat to different destinations in the Indian sub-continent.

Companies are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries as they can send home their employees at regular ticket rates.

Although the schedule will be finalised only after clearance from the authorities, the travel agents claim they have started receiving bulk and individual booking orders.

“Initially, we will operate flights to India as there is increasing demand from the Indian community to travel home. If requests from peoples from other countries in the sub-continent come, we will consider that too,” a spokesman for Travel Point, a Muscat-based travel agency, told Observer.

Applications for obtaining the regulatory and slot approvals have already been submitted to the competent authorities, he said, adding, Oman Air and Indian budget airline GoAir have already agreed to operate the flights.

Amid expectations of a positive response, he said, “in case such approvals are not received well in advance before the scheduled dates, we will not be in a position to operate the flights.”

An official at Al Hind Travels in Ruwi confirmed that a large number of people including individuals and corporates have booked tickets. “We have tied up with GoAir to operate charter flights to different destinations.”

Upon arrival at the Indian destinations, quarantine and other medical examinations in accordance with the law will be applicable to the passengers, he said.

The travel agents are also offering an option to book a full flight with the same prices that they have sent for approval from the authorities.

“You can opt for hiring a full aircraft or break into groups of minimum 20 per group and obtain the same rates as per our chart which is pending permission from the authorities,” one of the letters from the travel agents says.

Commenting on the plan by the travel agents, Jose Chacko, a finance expert, said: “The move will be a solace to a number of people who cannot find their names in the priority list being prepared by the embassy.”

The fact is that many who want to travel urgently do not come under the purview of the priority list.

Since the flights are going to be operated on quid pro quo basis, it will benefit the Covid-19 stricken aviation industry and its auxiliary units as well, he said.

According to Arun Mehta, a human resource specialist with a construction firm, the plan will help a number of companies who want to send their employees home.

“Since the start of the lockdown, hundreds of employees in different sectors have either been given termination or long leave notices by their respective companies. With the charter flights the companies will be able to send them home.”