Picture used for representational purpose only
LONDON: India’s super-rich paid tens of thousands of pounds to get to Britain by private jets ahead of the Covid-hit country being added to the UK’s travel red list even as some charter flights arranged for others were denied landing permits.
The website FlightAware shows that eight private jets – which would have cost £70,000 each (around Rs 72 lakh) upwards to charter – arrived from India at London Luton airport in the 24 hours before the travel restrictions kicked in at 8.30am IST on Friday. Four of these arrived from Mumbai, three from Delhi and one from Ahmedabad.
A private jet – VT-AHI – whose ownership couldn’t be immediately verified left Mumbai airport at 9.42pm on Thursday and landed at Luton airport at 6.53am IST, just an hour and a half before the landing window closed. The flight returned to Mumbai on Saturday.
Another private jet, run by global private aviation company VistaJet, had left Mumbai on Thursday night and landed her just 40 minutes before the deadline.
A Qatar Executive privately chartered jet left Mumbai at 4.59pm on Thursday and arrived at 2.34am IST. One private jet – T7-NAP – left Mumbai at 12.54am on Thursday. A Qatar Executive flight from Ahmedabad landed at London Luton airport on Thursday night.
Three flights from Delhi, too, arrived on Thursday. These include a Qatar Executive aircraft, an Air Hamburg jet and a VistaJet plane. VistaJet promotes “fine bed linen, cashmere blankets, Christofle silverware and porcelain and a curated library by Heywood Hill” on its luxury jets.
Less moneyed Indian travellers were unable to get any seats on direct flights last week. A small number of carriers had requested to operate additional flights from India as many travellers, including students, sought to fly to Britain before the updated red list took effect.
A London-based travel agency called Tickets to India had chartered a Qatar Airways flight to depart from Delhi on Thursday 22 April and had sold all 300 seats at £1,100 per seat for economy and £1600 for business. On Wednesday it said on its Facebook Age the flight “cannot go ahead as the Civil Aviation Authority in the U.K. has denied issuance of the landing permit.” All the passengers were given refunds.
A spokesperson for the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said, “We received a number of requests from non-UK airlines 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 These applications were declined, or withdrawn from the application process, as they were unfortunately unable to meet the Indian Government’s qualifying criteria in the time available.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 Civil Aviation Authority is happy to consider any future requests, but these must meet the governing and bilateral qualifying criteria.”
Under the current bilateral arrangements, only 15 flights a week are permitted to operate between India and the UK. All non-UK air carriers that wish to undertake commercial services to and from the UK are required to hold a foreign carrier permit.
India being added to the red list means that anyone without residency rights or UK citizenship is barred from entering the country. Those with UK citizenship or residency need to undergo 10 days’ mandatory quarantine in a government-approved hotel.