'We don't want to be abandoned': India grounds flights, leaving Vancouver family stranded
VANCOUVER -- A Vancouver family stuck half a world away from home has been spending the last few days on the phone trying to get a flight back to Canada.
On Saturday, they received news that another booking had been cancelled.
“We got a notification that tomorrow's flight had been cancelled -- just no flights leaving, no flights coming in,” Parinaaz Udwadia told CTV News over Skype from Mumbai.
The family left Vancouver on March 7. Before they left, Udwadia said, they did their due diligence by ensuring there were no travel advisories. She said their airline reassured them that the trip would not be impacted.
The family went to India to celebrate a cousin's wedding and a grandmother’s 100th birthday.
“Because of the reasons we were coming here, we decided to take a chance," Rishad Udwadia said. "Hindsight is 20/20, but honestly, we didn't think it would be like this."
The Udwadia family has so far booked three different flights home - with Air France, KLM and Delta - and each time, the flights have been cancelled.
Earlier this week, the Indian government announced it is banning all international flights starting Sunday, March 22, for one week.
The country has also implemented a nationwide public curfew in its efforts to combat COVID-19, which has infected 330 people in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Dilshad Deboo said she feels stressed knowing her daughter, son-in-law and six-year-old grandson are trapped in Mumbai.
“I know what it's like to be in a city like Bombay, where there are so many people, and I know if something happens there it can escalate,” said Deboo from her North Vancouver home.
No immediate plans to repatriate Canadians in India
On Saturday, federal officials announced they are working to repatriate as many Canadians as they can.
“We are doing everything in our power to bring the largest number of Canadians as quickly as possible,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne. “I must, however, repeat something I've said before: unfortunately, it will not be possible to ensure the return of all Canadians who wish to come home.”
The minister said like Canada, many countries have introduced travel restrictions, creating another challenge to bring Canadians home.
“We are facing something which is quite unprecedented, where airspace has been closed, airports are closed, travel restrictions are imposed ... so we are working to solve this situation, and making sure that we can ensure that Canadians can get to the airport,” Champagne said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a flight is leaving Morocco this weekend to bring Canadians home, adding chartered flights for other countries will be announced in the coming days.
“We’re working with Canadian airlines to make commercial flights available for as many Canadians who are stranded as possible. We will also be working with other countries to ensure that our airlines have the permissions and other supports necessary to fly,” Trudeau said.
Members of the Udawadia family said they feel disheartened to hear there are no immediate plans to help Canadians in India.
“We don’t want to be abandoned. We’re really, really, really hoping that they look at India and see how many of us there are here,” Parinaaz said.
The federal government advises everyone abroad to register online to receive any notices and advisories.