Air India's top executive leading the Vande Bharat mission to bring back Indians from pandemic-hit countries has been infected with coronavirus. Meenakshi Malik, Commercial Director, last week tested positive and has been in home quarantine.
Sources said that almost half a dozen members of her team have also contracted the disease and are under medical observation. Air India has been in the forefront in carrying out the world's largest expatriation exercise ever since the pandemic was first reported in Wuhan, China. The airline has so far operated flights to 75 foreign destinations in 54 countries.
"Many executives in the Commercial department have tested positive. Commercial Director has not been attending office after she tested positive. She had attended office all along to manage special flights," said an airline source. In the wake of rising coronavirus cases, the government had suspended scheduled international flights in the last week of March. Vande Bharat mission was, however, launched on May 6 to bring back stranded Indians by special flights.
An Air India executive said that the flag carrier along with its subsidiary Air India Express has operated a little over 3,037 inbound flights in the last six phases of the Vande Bharat mission carrying 5.17 lakh Indian nationals. Almost the same number of outbound flights have been operated flying out 2.79 lakh passengers.
"Some more flights would be added to the Vande Bharat mission. It's an ongoing process. Depending on the demand, additional flights are being operated," the official said. With Air India being the lone carrier with wide-body jets in its fleet, the airline has been operating long-haul special flights to US, Canada and Europe.
Air India group has gradually increased the number of special flights. In the first phase of Vande Bharat Mission, it operated 128 flights (both inbound and outbound) which has now gone up to over 1,600 flights.
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