Japan: Govt steps up bid to evacuate Indians

The government has stepped up its efforts to bring home stranded Indians from Tokyo, by pressing into service Air India's Jumbo Boeing 747-400, with a seating capacity of 423 passengers, on Wednesday. Instead of the scheduled Boeing 777 aircraft, the state-owned carrier will operate the jumbo aircraft to Tokyo for the next three days.

"The flight will leave Delhi at 2300 hrs and reach Narita next morning at 0950 (local time). The return flight will leave Narita at 1130 hrs (local time) to reach Delhi at 1800 hrs (local time)," Air India announced. In addition, it will continue to operate three weekly flights to Osaka as per schedule.

"The plane scheduled to depart late Wednesday evening will also carry relief material such as blankets and food packages," a senior Civil Aviation Ministry official told The Indian Express. The ministry is in constant touch with the External Affairs Ministry which shall be guiding the Japan operations, the official added. "As and when required, we will increase the number of Air India flights to Japan," the official said. So far, Air India has brought 900 passengers home, since the twin tragedy earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.

The ministry said these flights will be operated on a commercial basis, which means the passengers will be charged applicable fares. However, Air India has announced waiver of penalties on re-scheduling, cancellation or refunds on tickets for travel between the countries till March 31.

Apart from Air India, Japan Airlines is operating four weekly flights as scheduled between Delhi and Tokyo. Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and China Eastern are some of the other major operators on this route.

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