Sri Lankan Airlines, the national carrier is continuing repatriation flights to bring back thousands of stranded students in Covid-19 affected countries considering it as a national service amidst great health risk for operating staff, cabin crew and heavy unforeseen costs, official sources said.
The Airline has come under scratching attack and heavy criticism for charging parents of these students for levying “extortionate” fees to repatriate them from Covid-19 hit countries especially from India recently.
In a letter to the Education and Foreign Ministries, the Ceylon Teachers Service Union has urged to bringback these students’ with state expenses as most of them are studying in India, Pakistan and Nepal on scholarships.
580 students are continuing their highest studies in India on scholarships and their parents had to under to go grate difficulties high air fare of Rs 58,650 for one way ticket which normally priced at Rs. 25,074, the teachers union alleged.
Sri Lankan Airlines is rendering this national service of one of the biggest evacuation exercises in human history in recent decades without any profit motive official sources said adding that making allegations on high fares without verifying actual factors will undermine repatriation operations.
There are many factors that could lead to these flights being astronomically more expensive than commercial flights during normal times of operation, one being that the airplane is most likely flying empty to pick up passengers.
That means the operating costs need to be paid for both directions with passengers only traveling one-way.
With borders and airports officially closed, it could be much more expensive for Airlines to obtain landing rights and permission to fly in certain countries where commercial flights are currently banned.
Landing rights and ground staff wages may cost more than normal, too. A ticket for a government-chartered repatriation flight can cost as much as an unrestricted economy class ticket.
These expenses are then passed onto the evacuating passengers. However SriLankan Airlines has carried out the airline’s mission of mercy voluntarily that brought back 33 students from Wuhan, China without charging any air fare, on Saturday 1st February 2020 SL Air Lines sources said.
The mission of mercy was carried out with the assistance of Chinese and Sri Lankan governments without any additional costs on the instruction of President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
It has already brought 456 students from India, Pakistan and Nepal during the last few days.