Empty planes flying from India to Saudi Arabia to bring back stranded Indians: Hardeep Singh Puri

NEW DELHI: Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Tuesday said empty planes are flying to Saudi Arabia to bring back Indian citizens stranded there, amid the gulf nation barring flights from India and various other nations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a series of tweets, Puri said that Indian citizens are travelling to and from 27 countries under air bubble arrangements.

“Some countries, including Saudi Arabia, have placed entry restrictions on Indian citizens among others. However, VBM flights continue to bring back Indians from Saudi Arabia,” he said.

International flights are operated under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) to bring back stranded Indians in various countries.

“Our planes are flying empty to Saudi Arabia & are bringing back our citizens stranded there. We will be able to carry Saudi Arabia bound passengers once the travel restrictions on Indians are eased by Saudi Arabia,” the minister said.

Last month, Saudi Arabia suspended flights from various countries, including India, in the wake of a spurt in coronavirus cases.

India suspended scheduled commercial international flight operations from March 23 last year in the wake of the pandemic.

Last week, the suspension was extended till March 31.

Overseas flights to and from India are allowed under VBM since May 2020 and bilateral air bubble agreements with certain countries since July last year.