Air India plane lands in Bucharest to evacuate Indians stranded in Ukraine

An Air India flight from Mumbai landed in Romania’s capital Bucharest on Saturday morning to rescue Indians stranded in Ukraine due to Russian military attack.

Senior government officials said the aircraft, AI1943, took off from Mumbai airport at around 3.40am (Indian Standard Time) and landed at Bucharest airport at around 10.45am (Indian Standard Time).

He said that Indian nationals who reached Ukraine-Romania border by road have been taken by Indian government officials to Bucharest so that they can be evacuated by Air India flight.

He said the AI1943, which is being operated on Boeing 787 aircraft, can carry 256 passengers at a time.

Air India will operate more flights to Bucharest and Hungarian capital Budapest on Saturday to evacuate Indians stranded in Ukraine.

Since the morning of 24 February Ukraine’s airspace has been closed to civilian aircraft operations and, therefore, evacuation flights are operating from Bucharest and Budapest.

Officials said around 20,000 Indians, mainly students, are currently stranded in Ukraine.

Prior to the closure of Ukraine’s airspace, Air India operated a flight to Ukraine’s capital Kiev on 22 February, carrying 240 people back to India.

It had planned to operate two more flights on 24 February and 26 February, but it could not do so as the Russian offensive began on 24 February and Ukrainian airspace was closed as a result.

Air India on Friday night said on Twitter that it will operate B787 aircraft from Delhi and Mumbai to Bucharest and Budapest on Saturday as special government charter flights to bring back stranded Indian nationals.

The Indian Embassy in Ukraine on Friday said it is working to establish evacuation routes from Romania and Hungary.

“Currently, teams are meeting at the following checkpoints: the Chop-Zahony Hungarian border near Uzhhorod, the Porbane-Siret Romanian border near Chernivtsi,” it said.

The embassy said that Indian nationals, especially students, who live closest to these border posts are advised to proceed in an organized manner in coordination with teams from the Ministry of External Affairs to realize this option.

Once the above routes are operational, Indian nationals traveling on their own would be advised to proceed at the border posts, it noted.

The embassy advised Indian travelers to carry their passports, cash (preferably in US dollars), other essentials and COVID-19 vaccination certificates to the border posts.

It said, “Take a print out of the Indian flag and affix it prominently on vehicles and buses during the journey.”

The distance between Kiev and the Romanian border post is about 600 kilometers and it takes eight and a half hours to 11 hours to cover it by road.

Bucharest is located about 500 kilometers from the Romanian border post and it takes anywhere between seven and nine hours by road.

The distance between Kiev and Hungarian border post is approximately 820 kms and it takes 12-13 hours to cover by road.

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