British Columbia

India's new 1-week flight ban leaves visiting Canadians scrambling

Canadians are scrambling to get home as India prepares to ban all incoming international flights for a week.

International flights banned from landing in India for one week, starting March 22

Canadians Daljit Bains, 75, and his wife Gunny, 69, are in India celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in Mahilpur, Punjab. (Parm Bains)

Canadians are scrambling to get home as India prepares to ban all incoming international flights for a week.

The restriction on all international commercial passenger flights goes into effect on March 22 to limit the spread of COVID-19.

India joins many countries around the world, including Canada, that have implemented strict rules on incoming and outgoing international flights in an effort to flatten the curve of the pandemic.

A Vancouver man says he's not sure whether his mother will be able to get out of India before the flight restrictions begin.

Parm Bains says his parents flew to India in early February for their 50th wedding anniversary.

His father, Daljit, 75, has chosen to stay there and wait out the pandemic, but his mother, Gunny, 69, is booked on a flight home on March 24. Her Emirates flight from India is scheduled to fly to Dubai before continuing on to Vancouver.

The airline told his mother she would be notified of any cancellations or changes 72 hours before the flight.

Bains said his mother is confident and is telling him not to worry, but he's not clear on how the airline expects to maintain that booking to enter and leave the country on Monday, two days after the ban. 

He's also worried for his parents' health, as their age makes them more susceptible to COVID-19 and its complications. 

"Things are changing by the minute by the day with respect to flight and travel restrictions," Bains said.

"That's sort of the biggest concern right now. We just need her to get back and make sure she can get back."

'No space on any of the airlines'

The flight restrictions in India are also causing headaches for Sumeet Bains, an operations manager at Bains Travel in Vancouver who is not related to Parm Bains. 

Up to 600 clients of the travel agency are in India trying to get back to B.C. right now, he said, and there are not enough seats left on planes.

Some people may need to remain in India for a week longer than they wanted, he said. 

"We are getting a ton of calls. Unfortunately though, there's just really no space on any of the airlines," Bains said.

"It's going to be tough to get everyone back."

This is not peak season for travel to India but many people are hoping to return to Canada around this time of year as the weather heats up, Bains said.

Depending on what happens in the coming days or whether that ban on incoming flights gets extended, Bains said the government may need to step in and help Canadians as it has with citizens stuck in Morocco.

"Things are changing so fast. People are trying to get information more than anything else," Bains said. 

"We are telling everyone to sign up with Foreign Affairs Canada. Make sure that our government at least knows where they are and that they're out of country."

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

With files from Meera Bains

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