Sharjah/Bhubaneswar: The Air Arabia flight with 216 distressed Odias, which includes 215 adults and an infant, took off from Sharjah at 8 am on Sunday with Captain Madhusmita Pattnaik as the pilot in command.
The flight will land at Biju Patnaik International Airport at 1.30 pm.
After reaching the Air Arabia office this morning, Madhusmita expressed happiness for having got this opportunity to fly Odias stranded in the UAE home on the first day of Raja festival.
A native of Bhubaneswar, she said that this is the first direct flight of Air Arabia to Bhubaneswar. “It is a matter of pride for me. The Odia Society in UAE has been helping the Odias stuck in this foreign land in distressing conditions amid the lockdown owing to COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
Madhusmita hoped that similar arrangements are made for others still stranded in UAE in the coming days and they are able to return to Odisha at the earliest.
“I have been working with Air Arabia for the last five years. I have also flown for different airlines in India, including Go Air, King Fishers and Deccan,” she added.
Once the passengers boarded the flight, Madhusmaita addressed them in Odia and said that all measures are in place in the flight to protect them from COVID-19. With the chant of ‘Jai Jagannath’, the flight soon took off.
Earlier speaking to Odisha Bytes, Dr Chandrasekhar Khuntia of the Odia Society in UAE had said that it took them almost 10 days to get the clearance for this chartered flight from the authorities concerned.
“About 90 per cent of those boarding this flight are distressed workers. A few pregnant women who want to be home and the elderly visiting their children here will also fly with them,” he had said.
Dr Kuntia said that they bought tickets worth Rs 25,000 each for 15 people who could not afford them.