By Christopher Tobutt
A big British Airways plane sat on ORIA runway glinting in the afternoon sun, awaiting 270 Indian Nationals to get on board for the first stage of their long flight home on Friday 3 July.
The flight was organized thanks to a huge effort by the Governor’s Office, who have been organizing the flight for a long time. But it wasn’t just the Governor’s office; everyone has stepped up to the plate to make this flight, which involves two separate airlines, a big success. Many Indians who work in the hotel and tourism sector, which has come to a halt here because of lack of guests, have been effectively stranded here. But in many cases some of the hotels have helped them considerably, continuing to pay them whatever they could, and also helping them cover the costs of the flight home, too.
It isn’t going to be easy or pleasant, because the Covid-19 precautions mean that the passengers will all have to wear both masks and visors all the way, but everyone seemed relieved and happy for the chance to see their family again:
“I feel is I am scared because of the covid, but we are happy that we will be finally seeing our parents and our family and everybody, so we are excited about it. Our company, Kimpton, has really helped us a lot by paying us whatever they could. They have helped us with the tickets, and with everything,” Ambika said.
Another passenger, Matthew Shiljo said: “It’s amazing, thanks to the Cayman Government and the company I work with, the Ritz-Carlton, they have really helped us to do everything, and our expenses, and the flight tickets Its pretty amazing. Thanks too for the country (Cayman Islands) because they are the ones who arranged everything.”
Matthew Forbes of Governor’s Office said “Today we’ve got the British Airways flight going out to Heathrow with about 270 passengers bound for India and about another 50 who will be getting off in London. There are some compassionate and urgent cases we have been dealing with in the Governor’s office. When this flight lands in London it will be connecting with a Qatar Airlines Charter to take the Indian passengers on to Chennai. We’ve organized the whole flight so we’ve had discussions with both the airline. We’ve been working with the British High Commission in New Delhi and the Deputy High Commission in Chennai to get the permissions from these flights to operate and we’ve also done all the bookings and taken the payments from the passengers as well, using an online booking system that we’ve developed.”
His Excellency The Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper said: “Yesterday 270 passengers left Cayman for Chennai, India. Many who left were in desperate need to return home. This was a challenging flight to arrange and involved many players. My thanks to my team who coordinated the flight, to the Indian community, led by Harry Chandi, who came together and offered support to both the passengers and my office. My thanks also to the Indian High Commission in Jamaica, British Airways, Qatar Airways and staff at Owen Roberts.”