India Paves Way For Private Airline Repatriation Flights

The Indian government has announced that it plans to allow private carriers to conduct repatriation flights for Indians stranded abroad. The decision will allow more people to return to the country as well as provide much-needed revenue for grounded airlines. Let’s find out more.

India airlines
The news is a boost for private airlines, which have struggled since the flight ban. Photo: Venkat Mangudi via Wikimedia Commons

Demand for repatriation remains high

The inclusion of private airlines in the repatriation effort will allow the government to meet the overwhelming demand it has received from Indians. Currently, the government is focusing on bringing back passengers with “compelling reasons”, such as the elderly, pregnant women, and students. However, with private airlines joining the effort, we could see the government expanding the criteria to include more passengers.

Air India
Only Air India and it’s subsidiary Air India Express was operating repatriation flights until now. Photo: Tom Boon/Simple Flying

However, the demand for repatriation flights has been massive. According to reports, over 200,000 citizens have signed up for flights from the UAE, while 25,000 have done so from the US. As this is only data from a couple of countries, the actual number is likely in the millions.

Seeing this, it makes sense to rope in private carriers. It is unfeasible for Air India alone to operate this many flights, which would likely take months. With private airlines in the mix, we can see the number of daily passengers repatriated rising from around 1,200 a day to many more.

A relief for private airlines

Private carriers in India have had a rocky few months, to say the least. India banned all international and domestic flights in late March and since extended the ban repeatedly. With no flights in the air, carriers have struggled to stay afloat, with all of them taking cost-cutting measures. Some carriers have resorted to extreme measures, which includes not paying their pilots and staff at all. However, by operating repatriation flights, these airlines will receive the much-needed revenue to survive.

Indian airlines Getty
Airlines have been struggling to remain afloat during this crisis. Photo: Getty Images

As of now, there is also no indication as to when flights will resume, as the government extends the ban once again. Airlines also received no short-term support from the government, effectively leaving them to fend for themselves. In light of this, airlines will be jumping on the opportunity to operate repatriation flights that could break months of near-zero revenue.

It is important to note that these flights will be non-scheduled flights, meaning airlines will need permission from the government to operate these flights. It is possible that airlines only get a chance to operate a small number of flights per day.


India’s decisions to include private airlines in the rescue effort is a win-win situation. It offers passengers more chances to return home as well as ensures airlines can survive with tumultuous time. The move could be particularly significant for airlines. As the number of daily coronavirus cases exponentially rise in the last few weeks, we could see the flight ban extended again.

What do you make on the government’s decision? Are you hoping to get on a repatriation flight? Let us know in the comments below.