Heathrow Rejects Airline Requests For Extra India Repatriation Flights

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London’s Heathrow Airport has rejected airline requests to add more repatriation flights from India. The decision comes just one day before India joins the UK’s ‘red list,’ heavily restricting travel into the country. Thousands of travelers are currently searching for flights from India before the travel ban comes into effect tomorrow morning.

Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner airplane as seen on final approach landing at London Heathrow International Airport LHR EGLL in England, UK. The long haul wide-body Boeing 787 aircraft has the registration VT-ANV, 2x GE jet engines. AirIndia AI AIC is the flag carrier of India and government-owned. The Indian airline carrier is a Star Alliance aviation alliance member and connects the British capital to Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Four airlines requested permission from Heathrow to add more last-minute repatriation flights. Photo: Getty Images

Denied

According to a report from the BBC, Heathrow Airport has turned down requests for additional repatriation flights from India. London’s biggest airport cited crowded immigration queues as the reason to decline permissions for extra landing slots.

Four airlines had requested permission to operate eight extra flights in total. While the airlines were not named, only four carriers operate direct flights: Air India, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Vistara. These eight flights would have been on top of 30 weekly flights flown between the countries.

BA 787
Heathrow turned down requests from four airlines for extra flights. Photo: Tom Boon | Simple Flying

The news will be a blow to the thousands of passengers who were eagerly hoping for extra flights to be scheduled between India and the UK. During previous red list decisions, Heathrow and other airports were prompt in allowing airlines to stage last-minute services. That includes flights from Kenya Airways, Pakistan International Airlines (which arranged eight extra flights due to the ban), and more.

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High risk

In addition to no extra commercial flights, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also declined requests for charter flights. The CAA explained that the requests had been refused or withdrawn since they did not meet the qualifying criteria. Effectively, this leaves little choice for passengers hoping to make their way to the UK before the ban.

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The UK’s red list ruling comes as India battles a deadly second wave of COVID-19 cases. The country marked the highest ever tally of cases globally yesterday, raising concerns around travel. Moreover, a new variant is also currently under investigation to see if it is more dangerous.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A350
Airlines have already starting canceling services between UK and India after the 23rd. Photo: Getty Images

The red list ruling also took people by surprise due to the timing of the announcement, which was just three days before it went into effect. Previously, the government had given travelers around a week before banning travel from a specific country.

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Few options remain

The travel ban will restrict entry to British and Irish citizens, along with those with residence rights in the country. However, even these limited passengers will need to undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense. The quarantine costs a huge £1,750 ($2,438) for one traveler and includes testing, accommodation, food, etc.

Hotel Quarantine, COVID-19 Tests, Prison
Travelers from India have less than 24 hours to arrive in the UK, with the ban going into effect from 04:00 BST on 23rd April. Photo: Getty Images

Travelers will have little choice but to complete a hotel quarantine if they cannot arrive in the UK before tomorrow morning. The last flights before then will leave India in the next few hours and are all booked out.

What do you think about the UK’s red list ruling and Heathrow’s decision not to allow more flights? Let us know in the comments!

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