After spending three days in transit at Amsterdam airport Sanjay Sapra was relieved to board KLM flight to Delhi on Friday, but his joy turned to horror after the aircraft was refused permission to land in India and forced to return from Russian airspace.
India stopped all passenger traffic from Europe and Turkey from March 18 to stop the spread of Covid-19. Sapra and over hundred other Indian passengers who were returning to India from the US and Canada were stuck at Amsterdam following the decision.
Stranded passengers petitioned external affairs ministry for help and allow them to return to India. KLM flew two ferry flights (without any incoming passengers) to Mumbai and Bengaluru on Friday to transport Dutch citizens home. The stranded Indians were allowed to board the Delhi bound aircraft after being assured entry into India.
But the KLM Boeing 787 aircraft was forced to return to Amsterdam three hours after take off due to differences between the civil aviation and external affairs ministries over interpretation of the travel ban.
In its statement KLM said its aircraft had to interrupt the flight and return to Amsterdam because of conflicting flight restrictions.
A civil aviation ministry official said group of ministers' decided to stop all passenger movement from Europe including transit traffic and allowing KLM flight to land in Delhi would have violated the order.
Angry passengers vented their ire on social media. " It is shocking and appalling that our special flight has been turned back to Amsterdam. Wondering where we stand at this point when our own country refuses to accept us," Sapra wrote in a Facebook post.
" My wife is over six months pregnant and she became unwell due to all the stress. She was taken to a hospital after landing in Amsterdam and is fine now. The embassy staff is supporting nher and other passengers," said Navi Mumbai resident Tejas Vispute.
"The KLM aircraft had to interrupt the flight and return to Amsterdam because of conflicting flight restrictions. The 120 passengers, residents of India, who would return to their country via a transfer at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, will have to wait at Schiphol on airside until KLM has a final agreement from the Indian authorities to land in Delhi. KLM is once again discussing this with the Indian authorities and is doing everything it can to get its passengers on their way back home. Till then, KLM will accommodate its passengers," the airline said in a statement.