Covid-19: US arranging more flights for stranded Americans in India

Image Courtesy: twitter

US asks those “on the fence about returning, get off that fence now,” as flights will not continue forever.

With India extending world’s biggest lockout to contain coronavirus pandemic to May 3, US is arranging additional special chartered flights to fly its citizens and their families home despite a dwindling demand.

With many Americans undecided about returning to the US that has become the epicenter of covid-19 pandemic or staying put in India which has seen less than 400 fatalities, US authorities are asking them to make up their minds.

“We are working to arrange additional special chartered flights for US citizens and their families departing India,” the US embassy in India said in its latest Health Alert issued Wednesday.

The embassy advised US citizens to register their interest “If you are still interested in departing India on a US government-facilitated flight” as “there are no guarantees there will be additional flights.”

The US authorities have repatriated over 3,100 US citizens from India to the US in recent weeks.

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Those interested in flying back are required to fill out this form: https://tinyurl.com/uscit-india, even if you have previously registered, emailed, or otherwise contacted the embassy.

Only those US citizens who registered using this form after April 11, 2020, will not need to fill out the form to be registered for a seat, it said.

The flights would likely follow the same route as previous flights: New Delhi to San Francisco, and Mumbai to Atlanta.

The flight is not free. All passengers will need to reimburse the US government for the cost of the flight.  Previous flights have cost between $2,000 and $2,500 per person.

A legal document, called a promissory note, for the full cost of the flight must be signed by each adult passenger before boarding. However, payment is not required at the time of the flight.

The exact departure time and routing of these chartered flights are subject to change, the embassy said. There are also no guarantees there will be additional flights.

Only US citizens with confirmations from the US Mission to India will be allowed to board the flights, it said advising them not to appear at the airport without an email from the US Mission in India.

Back in Washington, Assistant Secretary Bureau of Consular Affairs, Ian Brownlee, said at a State Department briefing Tuesday that US had repatriated almost 62,000 US citizens on over 560 flights from six continents.

“We still estimate there are around 15,000 US citizens who have some interest in coming home,” he said noting that number fluctuates because many people seem to be undecided.

“As I’ve also said many times before, if you’re on the fence about returning, get off that fence now,” Brownlee said as “ State Department-sponsored options will not continue forever.”

“From Nigeria to India, to Senegal to Indonesia, our US and local staff are working night and day to get as many US citizens as we can back home,” he said. “Please make your decision to come home now or hunker down where you are for the duration of your – this crisis.”

Brownlee also advised all US citizens still abroad to make sure they are registered in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, STEP, and make themselves known to the nearest US embassy or consulate.

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