India is presently facing a devastating wave of coronavirus. This has seen case numbers spike to record-high levels. Amid concerns about the increased transmissibility of a new variant of the virus present in India, UK flag carrier British Airways is reportedly struggling to get crews onboard when it comes to its flights to the country.
Apprehension regarding flights to India
According to The Independent, fears regarding the present health crisis in India have been causing British Airways cabin crew to refuse to work on flights to and from the country. Employees are reportedly “scared of working on the flights” to India. To put its staff’s mind at ease, BA has removed overnight stays in India from its working itineraries.
This will allow staff to remain in the controlled environment of the airport boundaries between their outbound and return flights. Furthermore, in a letter to its crew, the airline has also told employees that, if they do not feel comfortable, they can opt out of such flights by signing a form. British Airways told The Independent that:
“The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority, and we follow and comply with all international regulations.”
Added to the red list last month
The UK government recently added the country to its ‘red list.’ This came about due to India’s high infection rates, and fears about the presence of a mutant coronavirus strain in the country. Arrivals from such countries are obliged to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense upon arrival. Meanwhile, ‘amber list’ arrivals may quarantine in their homes.
Officials hoped that this classification would reduce the possibility of the mutated strain being transmitted. Furthermore, it could act as a deterrent against people traveling from India to the UK in general. However, the government has come under fire for its lack of urgency in adding the country to its most serious category.
While it announced India’s reclassification on April 19th, this didn’t come into effect until April 23rd. This caused a surge of India-UK bookings as passengers rushed to beat the deadline. As such, in the short term, it may not have served as a deterrent as hoped.
Why is BA still flying to India?
Fears about India’s latest surge in coronavirus could cause the question to arise as to whether such flights should or need to operate. However, British and Irish residents may still legally enter the UK from the country under red list conditions if they are prepared to comply with a 10-day quarantine in a hotel for £1,750 ($2,470).
For now, there seems to be sufficient demand from this demographic for such flights to go ahead. Indeed, Air India is also continuing to operate passenger flights to the UK. Furthermore, BA has also been flying to the country on humanitarian missions amid the current crisis. Earlier this month, it flew 27 tonnes of medical aid on a Boeing 777 to Delhi.