London-Kochi flights put on hold again, several Keralites stranded

Restrictions imposed on London-Kochi flights again, services till January 31 cancelled

Thiruvananthapuram: The London- Kochi flight services which were scheduled to resume from January 26, have been suspended yet again.

It was announced earlier that the flights would resume from Kochi on January 26,28 and 30 as part of the eightieth phase of Vande Bharat mission. However, the union civil aviation ministry issued an order on Tuesday morning cancelling these flights.

The order made it clear that the services comprising three flights a week would be continued after January. The order has been issued by Sunil Kumar, joint director of union civil aviation ministry.

The passengers who had taken tickets to board flights from Kochi to London on January 26, 28 and 30 and those who booked for returned flights to Kochi, will now be able to travel via Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai airports or later from Kochi airport subject to the resumption flight services.

It was due to the joint efforts of several Britain-based Malayali organizations that the government had decided to include Kochi in the 80th phase for resumption of flight services. All these efforts seem to have gone in a vain now.

The London-Kochi flight services under Vande Bharat mission was the only refuge for the Malayalis residing in COVID-hit Britain to return to their respective native places in Kerala. It was through the Kochi London flight that many people who got jobs recently in Britain could join their work and also many who had come to Kerala for urgent work, could not get back.

The Vande Bharat mission which was suspended temporarily in the wake of surge in COVID cases in Britain, was resumed on January 8. But Kochi was not included. There was widespread resentment among Malayalis against the union civil aviation ministry’s decision to keep Kochi out of the mission. After a series of protest and representations the authorities decided to resume the services. However, now the proposed resumption of services has been put on hold again.

The Malayalis in Britain suspect the pressure and influence of other airports in the southern states and the Gulf based airline companies behind the union ministry’s decision.

The Malayalis say despite raising the number of flights from one to two and then three because of huge passenger load, the delay in resuming the services is quite intriguing and smacks of a conspiracy. There are many people who got caught in the central government’s sudden decision to cancel the flights. Many Malaylis who had come to their native place for urgent requirements, are now stranded in Kerala unable to go back to their work places in Britain. Those who had trusted the direct fight and visited Kerala, are also stuck here.

The Air India had started operations from nine international airports in the country to various airports in Britain under the Vande Bharat mission. After Delhi airport which had eight services and Mumbai with four services, the third highest services were from Kochi.

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