Amsterdam-Delhi flight told to turn back midair amid virus confusion

NEW DELHI: A KLM flight from Amsterdam to New Delhi was turned around midair, an official and a passenger told AFP on Saturday, after apparent confusion about India’s coronavirus regulations.

Because of the pandemic, India has imposed a bar on flights from Europe and from Sunday a one-week complete ban on all incoming international commercial flights comes into force.

Passengers on the KLM flight, which had been due to arrive in the Indian capital early Saturday, included a pregnant woman who needed medical treatment on returning to Amsterdam.

The aircraft was told late Friday “to return to its point of departure due to operational reasons while it was still airborne,” the official told AFP without wishing to be identified.

“Delhi does not have permission to land (planes) so we don’t know why KLM decided to fly out from Amsterdam despite a clear advisory from the Indian government.”

One of the 120 or so passengers, also speaking anonymously, said that the announcement that they were going back was made over Russia around four hours into the flight.

The Hindu daily reported that the aircraft had around 100 Indians on board who had started their journeys in the United States and Canada.

The flight was also meant to bring home a number of Dutch citizens from India, it added.

Despite the bar on flights from Europe, the Indian foreign ministry gave clearance to the KLM flight because the passengers were only transiting through Amsterdam, according to the Hindu.

But India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation thought otherwise and the plane was asked to head back to the Netherlands, the paper said.

“We don’t know what to do … Please help,” one passenger said in a Twitter video, apparently shot at Schipol, carried by the Hindu.

Tejus Vispute, the husband in India of the pregnant woman, said his wife had been admitted to hospital after landing back in Amsterdam and later discharged.

“Once the flight turned back mid-air, my wife got really stressed out. She’s around six months pregnant,” Vispute told AFP.

“The crew was very supportive.”

It was unclear how many other Indians wanting to come home are stranded around the world in the current crisis.

The Indian foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.

India has so far confirmed 258 cases of coronavirus and four deaths.