Closed Ukrainian airspace forces Air India flights to return sans citizens
Ukraine -As the world watches in horror the unfolding of the Ukraine crisis with Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing a war on its neighbour Ukraine, countries are scrambling to bring back their citizens from the European nation. Thursday morning, as the commercial flights were halted to and from Ukraine, the Government of India sent Air India flight, AI 1947, to Kyiv from New Delhi to evacuate Indian citizens from Ukraine. But the Air India Dreamliner that had earlier taken off for Kyiv Boryspil International Airport, was informed at 9:15 am while it was near Iranian airspace to return back.
The announcement of NOTAM (Notice to Air Mission) from Ukraine said that the country has closed down its airspace amid “potential threats”. After NOTAM announcement was dispatched from Ukraine, Air India flight decided to abort the evacuation mission and return back to New Delhi.
Eastern Ukraine is currently witnessing a rapidly changing dynamic situation with Russia carrying out large scale military operations from the airspace. Under such circumstances, operation of commercial or rescue flights would be risky due to chaotic airspace with military activity on a rise. Such a crisis happened in July 2018 when a Malaysian airline was shot down killing all 298 people who were onboard during fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and pro – Russian separatist groups.
Recently acquired by the Tata Group, Air India had operated numerous ‘Vande Bharat’ mission flights during the Covid-19 pandemic to repatriate Indians from other countries amid lockdown imposing across the world. The same Air India airline was also operated for a few rounds last week to bring back Indians from Ukraine amid predictions of looming invasion by Russia. India also removed the cap on the number of Ukraine flights last week as per current air bubble agreement to facilitate the return of Indians from Ukraine. According to an aviation ministry spokesperson, the ministry has “removed the restriction on the number of flights and seats between India and Ukraine in the air bubble arrangement.”