Hours after earmarking an aircraft on standby for an evacuation flight to Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, Air India officials called it off on Monday. They said the special sortie from Mumbai had been put on hold until further instructions from the government.
Sounded out by the government, Air India pulled out a Boeing 747 for the sensitive operation. “The 423-seater double-decker jumbo aircraft will bring back, among others, students stranded in Wuhan,” an airline official said in Mumbai. The 12-member crew, rostered for a 5 p.m. departure, had been pulled out, he said. It was not clear whether a team of doctors would travel along.
The official said there was a need for clarity on some points. As crew members would run a risk, many said they expected full-body protection kits. There were also questions within the airline on the protocol to be followed to ensure that everyone on the aircraft stood protected, and the aircraft itself did not become a carrier of the virus.
A senior official of the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation said no permission or special dispensation had so far been sought, or granted, for any evacuation flight to Wuhan from any Indian city.