Several of the 700-plus domestic flights that operated over the last month were chartered by companies in labour-dependent sectors such as manufacturing, industrial goods, real estate, and hospitality to fly back employees who had left their places of work during the lockdown.
Companies such as state-owned ONGC Ltd and infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro operated charters from airports such as Patna and Bhubaneswar to Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Some charters flew employees to industrial hubs such as Chennai and Rajahmundry, executives at the companies and the airlines said.
Several industrial sectors had expressed concern over the massive reverse migration of employees during the lockdown. Thousands of workers left for their home towns, and manufacturing companies had been especially concerned about the shortage of both skilled and unskilled labour as the economy reopened.
“We have operated multiple charters paid for by companies to transport employees to work locations within and outside the country. One big Indian company, for example, has been regularly booking our aircraft to ferry its employees to different stations,” a SpiceJet official told The Indian Express.
The airline has operated chartered flights on sectors including Delhi-Kochi, Jodhpur-Kochi, Jodhpur-Chennai, Jodhpur-Delhi, Jodhpur-Rajahmundry and Delhi-Rajahmundry. Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh is home to several industrial parks, and is the administrative base for oil and gas companies operating in the Krishna-Godavari Basin.
The chartered flights to Kochi have been carrying mainly blue-collar workers in the hospitality sector, who had returned to their homes in areas around Delhi, including in Rajasthan, Haryana, and western UP, industry sources said.
An Air India official said oil major ONGC has chartered aircraft to transport over 5,000 personnel to its stations across the country over the past month. The first of these charters flew some 100 personnel from Bihar, Jharkhand, and eastern UP to Mumbai from Patna in May; thereafter, workers have been flown from Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata, etc.
On June 20, L&T flew over 100 personnel from Bhubaneswar to Ahmedabad to resume work on the Ahmedabad Metro project. Asked why companies are flying back workers with such urgency, a senior executive at an infrastructure company said: “These are all specialised workers, supervisory staff, or those with specific skills such as arc welding, machine-moulded carpentry, or operating cranes.” Workers are being flown back because it is difficult to resume work without their specialised skills, the executive said.
Some companies flying back workers to project sites have stopped short of chartering an entire narrow-body aircraft. The Indian Express found a contractor for a Bengaluru-based real estate firm who had bought flight tickets for a group of carpenters from Patna to Hyderabad. And Chennai-based Newry Properties collaborated with two other real estate developers in the same city to charter a flight to bring back over 150 skilled workers from Bihar.
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