New Delhi: At a time when the domestic and international flight operations have been suspended in the country in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Air India on Thursday said that it will operate 18 flights for citizens of Germany, Canada, France, Ireland who are stranded in India. The initiative has been taken on the request of concerned embassies. Also Read - 'Alarming How Neighbours Are Ostracising Crew Who Went Abroad,' Writes Air India

Issuing a statement, Air India said that it has entered into commercial contracts with these countries to run charter flights for their citizens. Also Read - 'Provide Urgent Financial Aid', Air India Pilots' Unions Write to Centre Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

“Air India to operate 18 flights for citizens of Germany, Canada, France, Ireland stranded in India on the request of concerned embassies. Air India has entered into commercial contracts with these countries to run charter flights for their citizens. Flights to return to India empty,” Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal said. Also Read - Coronavirus: Air India Express Passengers Can Reschedule Tickets Freely Between March 12 And 31

He also said that the airline is providing all the essentials things like sanitisers, gloves, personal protective equipment to the cockpit crew, cabin crew and the ground staff. “Our cabin crew has been advised to quarantine themselves after flights,” he said.

He also added that the approval has been received to operate a cargo flight from Delhi to Hong Kong to bring back medical equipment (especially PPE) from April 4 to 5. However, permission is awaited for cargo movement to Shanghai from April 6.

Air India also said that it is planning to conduct multiple special flights to London between April 4 and April 7 to fly out foreigners who are stranded in the country amid the lockdown.

The development comes as the country is under a 21-day lockdown till April 14 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, all domestic and international commercial passenger flights have been suspended for this time period.