Eight private jets carrying some of India's super-rich left the country for the United Kingdom and landed at the Luton airport in London on Friday – the day travel restrictions to the UK kicked in – with the country witnessing a second wave of COVID-19.
According to a report in The Times of India, the eight jets included four from Mumbai, three from Delhi and one from Gujarat's capital city Ahmedabad. The flights would have cost close to 70,000 pounds (about Rs 72 lakh) each and were used to beat the travel restriction from India to the UK by landing in the latter before 8:30 am on Friday, April 23.
The report mentions that the private jet VT-AHI left Mumbai at 9:42 pm on Thursday and touched down in Luton at 6:53 am the next day before returning on Saturday. Another jet, owned by the private aviation company Vista Jet, also left Maharashtra's capital the same night and made it to the UK just 40 minutes ahead of the deadline.
Another Qatar Executive jet left Mumbai at 4:59 pm the same evening and arrived around an hour before the stipulated time. The one from Ahmedabad, reportedly courtesy the same carrier, landed in Luton on Thursday.
The three flights from Delhi – a Qatar Executive plane, an Air Hamburg jet and a Vista Jet airplane – arrived in the UK on Thursday. Vista Jet's planes include "fine bed linen, cashmere blankets, Christofle silverware and porcelain and a curated library by Heywood Hill" on its luxury planes.
The report mentions that London-based travel agency Tickets to India had arranged for a Qatar Airways flight from Delhi on Thursday; all the 300 seats were said to be sold with the going rate 1,100 pounds for an economy class ticket and 1,600 pounds for business class.
A UK Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson told the newspaper that it had "received a number of requests" by airlines outside the UK to operate charter flights between India and the UK last week. "These applications were declined, or withdrawn from the application process, as they were unfortunately unable to meet the Indian Government’s qualifying criteria in the time available," the newspaper quoted the official saying.
According to the current understanding in place between the two countries, only 15 flights are permitted to operate with all non-UK carriers who wish to function commercially needing a foreign carrier permit. India has been added to the UK's red list which ensures that anyone without residency rights or a UK citizenship cannot enter the country.
With 3,52,991 people testing positive for the novel coronavirus infection in a day, the highest so far, India's total tally of COVID-19 cases has climbed to 1,73,13,163 while active cases have crossed the 28-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday. The death toll increased to 1,95,123 with a record 2,812 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.
With PTI input