Pakistan has just joined alongside several countries to have praised Air India for its multiple relief and evacuation flights around the globe to tackle the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Air Traffic Control of Pakistan not only welcomed Air India flights into its airspace but also appreciated the work the airline is doing in these uncertain times, reported NDTV.
On April 2 Air India operated two flights from Mumbai to Frankfurt in Germany; these flights carried relief materials and European nationals stranded in India after the "total lockdown" announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24.
"The flight took off from Mumbai at 1430 hours. We entered Pakistan airspace at 1700 hours. We tried to contact Air Traffic Control but did not get a response. So, we changed frequencies and (then) managed to contact ATC," a senior Air India officer said.
The first words from Pakistan ATC surprised the pilots.
"As-salamu alaykum (Peace be upon you). This is Karachi Control welcoming Air India for relief flights," the Air India officer told NDTV, quoting the ATC.
"Confirm you are operating relief flights for Frankfurt," the ATC then asked, to which the Air India pilot replied: "Affirm".
According to Air India officials, the Pakistan ATC also told the pilots they were proud of them for operating flights at such difficult times. "We are proud of you that in a pandemic situation you are operating flights, Good Luck!" the ATC said.
"Thank you so much," the captain of the flight responded.
The Air India official told NDTV that Pakistan ATC also saved the flight 15 minutes flying time by allowing them to fly closer to Karachi.
The Pakistan ATC's helpful stance didn't end there.
A short while later, when the Air India planes were entering Iran airspace but were unable to contact the authorities, Pakistan helped again.
"Here also Pakistan helped us and got in touch with Iran and gave our message to them. Normally in such flights, we spend the maximum number of hours in Iran airspace but Iran also gave us a shorter route," the Air India official told NDTV.
The Air India flights also received praise and welcome from Turkish and German Air Traffic Controllers.
"The flight was scheduled to reach Frankfurt at 0915 hours but it landed at 0835 hours," Air India said.
The national carrier is scheduled to operate 18 charter flights to repatriate German, French, Irish and Canadian nationals stuck in India, as requested by their respective embassies.
All flights, including ones bringing critical medical equipment from China, are being operated in adherence to safety protocols laid down by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Air India is also scheduled to operate cargo flights between Delhi and Shanghai to bring in critical medical equipment for India; these flights will run till April 9.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has infected over a million people worldwide and led to nearly 50,000 deaths. In India the number of cases has crossed 3,000, with 75 deaths linked to the virus, the Health Ministry said on Saturday.