SriLankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka have arranged a special flight tomorrow to bring back a group of 120 pilgrims who were stranded in the Buddhist holy city of Bodh Gaya (Buddha Gaya) due to the floods in India, a spokesman for the SriLankan Airlines said
The pilgrims had been scheduled to travel by road to Chennai and fly to Colombo, but flooding shut down the Chennai airport, leaving them stranded in Bodh Gaya.
“Once again, SriLankan Airlines is responding rapidly to an urgent appeal and fulfilling our duty as the national carrier. Initially we tried to reroute these passengers through Calcutta, but given the situation and the stress these senior citizens are under, we thought it best to operate a special flight direct to Gaya. In the coming days we will expedite the repatriation of other pilgrim groups who are in Southern India as well, using special flights if required. This is an unprecedented national emergency that we must respond to,” Captain Suren Ratwatte, CEO of SriLankan Airlines, said.
The Airbus A320 aircraft flown by budget carrier Mihin Lanka is scheduled to arrive in Bodh Gaya tomorrow morning and return to Colombo in the afternoon, with the flight expected to take 3 ½ hours.
Keeping to its famed standards for hospitality, SriLankan has gone to the extent of arranging special vegetarian meals as the passengers are Buddhist pilgrims. Apart from a full complement of cabin crew, several officials from the airline’s offices in Colombo would be on board to assist the pilgrims.
SriLankan’s Flight Operations Department has arranged the necessary permits and overflying clearances rapidly given the nature of the situation.
High Commisioner HE Esala Weerakoon has coordinated matters regarding the pilgrims with the vihare in Gaya where the pilgrims found shelter, and authorities in Bodh Gaya.