Canadians stuck in India told to pay $2,900 for special flight home
OTTAWA -- Canadians stuck in India have been given the option of a special flight back home — but they’ll have to foot the $2,900 bill themselves, according to the federal government.
The government recently sent an email to all Canadians registered in India informing them of the availability of these special flights intended to bring them back to Canada. The letter "strongly" encourages Canadians to take advantage of the flights, which come at an estimated cost of $2,900 per passenger.
A return flight from India currently costs less than $2,000, making the $2,900 price tag seem far more expensive.
"I'm happy that we're getting the flights, I’m happy that we're getting home, however the cost which they're expecting us to pay - it's outstanding," Melissa Chadha, a Canadian stuck in India with her husband and infant child, told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.
"We feel that we're kind of bullied into having to pay this extra money."
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada explained that this was the lowest price Canada was able to obtain from the airline providing the flights, which they said was not a Canadian airline.
They said the flights are more expensive right now because of the exceptional circumstances, not because of any profit for the airlines, and that the government has a $5,000 loan available to those who need it to cover the costs of their return. Canadians trapped abroad are also being assisted in other countries, including Peru, Spain, Honduras, Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala.
However, that $5,000 loan ultimately has to be repaid — and passengers are only able to access it once they've exhausted all other options.
"They said that we should be asking friends and families for money," Chadha said, adding that Canadians are also encouraged to use their credit cards to purchase the tickets.
The letter Chadha and others like her received from the government confirms her assertion. It says travellers should attempt to use their own financial means to arrange their return to Canada.
They can access the emergency $5,000 loan "if [they] are able to demonstrate that this is not possible."
In addition to the cost of the flight, Canadians trapped in India will also need to foot the bill for safe passage to the airport. If they do not take advantage of this option, the government warned, the Canadians risk being denied passage and missing their flight.
"It is strongly recommended to avail yourselves of this service in order to avoid difficulties in travelling to the airport, as these commercial vehicles will receive advance clearance to from authorities to travel to the airport during the lockdown," the letter reads.
As a result, Chadha and her family feel like they have to use this option — which adds another cost on the price tag.
"If we decide that we want to travel on our own, there could be a possibility that the police may not even allow us to get through the borders, so we're kind of, again, stuck with having to go the route that the government's going to give us," Chadha said.
While her family did already have a flight back booked with Air Canada for March 27, it was pushed forward to April 15. With no guarantee that the flight will actually depart that day and an infant son who needs specific food only available in Canada, she said the whole situation has left her frustrated.
"At this point, we feel that we're kind of bullied into having to pay this extra money to have to get home, because we need to get home for my son. It's imperative that we get home to make sure we have the food for him," Chadha said.
She also noted that the only reimbursement Air Canada is providing for her initial return flight is a credit — one that isn't applicable to the $2,900 bill for the new flight, and that must be used within 24 months.
"I don't know if we'll even have money to get food once we get home, because we have no food at home," Chadha said.
Should they secure their safe passage home, Chadha and others like her will be subject to a strict 14-day quarantine in a bid to quell the spread of COVID-19. As of 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, there were 8.476 cases in Canada. The virus had also claimed 95 lives.