Air India flight (AI-1945) from Delhi to Moscow on Saturday returned midway to Delhi after the ground team realised that the pilot is COVID-19 positive, PTI reported. The said flight was part of Aviation Ministry's 'Vande Bharat Mission' non-scheduled flights being run to bring back stranded Indians abroad amid COVID-19 outbreak since the government has yet not allowed international flight operations to resume.
The flight being operated under the Vande Bharat mission was half way over Central Asia, when it was called back. According to sources, the airline's medical staff which is overseeing the massive testing campaign of its crew, mistook the pilot's test report as 'negative' while he had tested 'positive' for COVID-19.
Subsequently, the aircraft was informed and the SoPs meant for such situations were immediately implemented.
While there is no information on when the international flight operations will resume, the domestic flight service in the country once again resumed on May 25, after almost 2 months when flight services were temporarily suspended as the lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Earlier on May 25, the Supreme Court in a partial relief to Air India allowed it to run non-scheduled flights with full capacity including middle seat occupancy for 10 more days to bring back stranded Indians abroad.
On Friday, Air India announced additional flights between June 4 and 6 to bring back Indians stranded abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic. The flights will evacuate Indians from the US, UK, Germany, South Korea, New Zealand, and Sweden.
"Additional flights announced by @airindiain under Mission Vande Bharat. Delhi to Auckland on June 4. Delhi to Chicago & Stockholm on June 5. Delhi to New York, Frankfurt & Seoul on June 6. Mumbai to London & Newark on June 6," Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted.
He said that bookings for the flights would start from 11 am on May 30. The Centre started the Vande Bharat Mission on May 7 to bring back stranded Indians from abroad.
In Phase 1 between May 7 and 16, over 16,000 people were brought back. In Phase II from May 17 to June 13, Air India flights are scheduled to operate from 60 countries.
(With inputs from IANS)