Choki Wangmo

Within two days (March 21-22), Drukair would deploy five additional flights from Paro to New Delhi to accommodate and evacuate stranded students before closure across India to all foreign carriers come into force from March 22-30.

The relieve flight, which is not allowed to carry other passengers, would bring home stranded Bhutanese students studying in the United States and India. There are students who want to come back, said the head of commercial division, Drukair, Wangchuk Tshering.

On March 19, the Indian government had announced that no scheduled international commercial flights would take off from any foreign airport in India. The measure was taken to check the spread of Covid-19 in the face of escalating confirmed cases in the country.

In his national address, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “To check the spread of coronavirus, India had already suspended visas for the vast majority of foreigners seeking to enter the country.”

Drukair has rescheduled Delhi-Paro flight KB205 on March 22 and March 23.

At the press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, said the government is looking into the inconvenience faced by Bhutanese outside the country. He urged them to contact either the government or the respective embassies.

However, Wangchuk Tshering said that contacting each stranded students was difficult and is worried that they will be left behind as the flight returns at 2pm in the afternoon. “We can’t contact them and they might miss the flight.”

Each student has to pay Nu 13,102 as per yesterday’s flight fare for students.

Drukair has authorised all its sales outlets, including its agents globally, to process refunds for cancelled flights.  On March 10, in line with government’s restriction on tourist, the company announced reduction in frequency of flights to mitigate the high operating cost.

In a similar move, as of March 19, Nepal had imposed arrival restrictions for passengers coming through direct flights, and having a transit in the worst affected countries. Visa on arrival for all foreign nationals have also been suspended from March 14 till April 30.  “Nationals of the Bhutan and Afghanistan willing to visit Nepal for compelling reasons may contact Embassy of Nepal in Delhi during office hours.”

As of February 15, Drukair lost about Nu 20 million in revenue as 600 tickets were cancelled. This included both incoming and outgoing passengers since most tickets purchased are for return journeys.