Despite clearance, KLM flight from Amsterdam with 100 Indians refused permission to land in Delhi

A senior official says issue was due to gaps in interpreting advisory

A flight from Amsterdam to Delhi carrying 100 Indian passengers, including a pregnant woman, was not allowed to land in Delhi on Saturday because of worries over the COVID-19 pandemic, hours after it was given clearance to arrive, sources confirmed.

“[There were] some gaps in interpreting the advisory, which has led to this problem,” a senior official told The Hindu, indicating that the government will try to resolve the issue on Saturday, with less than 24 hours to a complete flight ban being put into place.

The flight, KLM 871, was due to land in Delhi around one in the morning on Saturday, but was “redirected” back to Amsterdam by civil aviation authorities when it was flying over Russia, a flight path of the plane shows.

The photo shows the flight path of KLM 871, which was not allowed to land in Delhi.
| Photo Credit:

Although flights carrying passengers from The Netherlands and other European Union countries have been prohibited since March 18, the KLM airlines flight had been given clearance to land as the Indian passengers on board were all in transit from the U.S. and Canada, which are not prohibited.

In addition, the flight was being run to Delhi in order to evacuate Dutch nationals before the government’s ban on all flights comes into effect on March 22.

“The flight was forced to return despite [civil aviation authorities] being told that the flight was bringing transit passengers from North America,” a government source said, adding that DGCA had also been informed that elderly people and children were on board.

The flight has now returned to Amsterdam, and it is unclear where the Indian passengers will be kept or about the fate of Dutch nationals waiting to be flown home, who are in Delhi at present.

Among those travelling was a pregnant woman from Mumbai, whose husband and sister-in-law tweeted a number of appeals to the government as the flight spent more than 10 harrowing hours in the air. “My wife is six months pregnant and requires special assistance,” wrote her husband, Tejas Deepak Vaspute. “Due to all travel and transit, she had some stress-induced contractions and is admitted to University Hospital,” added his sister Bhamini Vaspute, who added that officials of the Indian embassy in Netherlands were assisting her.

The Hindu had reported on a number of Indian passengers left stranded in various capitals worldwide because of what Ministry of External Affairs officials called a “misinterpretation” of travel advisories issued by the government on March 10,11,16,17 and 19, by various airlines and international airport authorities.

India is one of the few countries that has decided not to allow its own citizens to return for fear they will carry the COVID-19 virus.

According to the wording of the travel advisory issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on March 19, “Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and United Kingdom to India is prohibited with effect from 18 March 2020. No airline shall board a passenger from these nations to India with effect from 1200 GMT on 18 March 2020.”

Officials said KLM 871 should have been allowed to land, as it only carried passengers in transit from North America.

Watch | COVID-19: Dos and don’ts from the Health Ministry


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