After the suspension of flights between India and the UK since 22 December, India’s Civil Aviation Minister announced last week that a restricted service of 15 flights per week will resume today.
Flights between Kerala and London have been excluded from this resumption, causing an outcry amongst UK-Malalayees who have set up a petition demanding the immediate reinstatement of the London-Kochi service.
As a result of the travel suspension, many Indian students who had planned to attend university in the UK are now stuck in their hometowns.
Poor internet connection and a five-hour time difference make online learning almost impossible for these students, while many are paying rent for accommodation in the UK which they cannot use.
Nissy, 22, was due to begin studying a master’s in international business this month.
Nissy’s internet connection is too poor to maintain a phone call, and like many other students, she is facing a financial crisis because of the travel ban
She said: “I was meant to start classes in January, but I got an email two days ago from the university saying I should attend online classes until the middle of February.
“How can I attend online classes from my hometown? I don’t have a proper internet connection and the network is very slow.
“I have been paying for accommodation since the second week of December, as I had my Visa approved in the first week of December.
“Now I am trapped here as every flight I book gets cancelled and there is no update about the flight schedule.
“So many of us are facing financial crises because of the travel ban. I had already booked two airline tickets for a huge amount, and it will take almost six months to get a refund.
“I have already paid 60% of my tuition fees as well.”
Nissy added she is lucky to have access to her own desk and laptop to work from in her home, even if her internet connection is poor.
She explained: “Some students didn’t get their CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) until now, so they didn’t purchase a laptop or anything. It will be impossible for them to do online classes.”
Aris, 30, is waiting to start his master’s in construction management in the UK.
He is a representative of a support group set up for Indian students impacted by the travel ban.
He said: “Luckily, I slowed down the process of applying for my Visa because of the restrictions. I suppose I smelled trouble somewhere along the way.
“Many students were ready to go last September, but because of the situation with Covid they postponed their start date until January.
“They expected things to be more back to normal now, but now the situation is worse as they cannot even get into the UK.
“Many students took out loans and they are paying interest, which is a huge problem. Some people have been paying for accommodation since December.
“Students are ready to take any precautions necessary to travel to the UK to do their classes – we don’t mind having to get a negative Covid test. We just need more flights to start running to the UK.”
The petition to resume flights between Kerala and London has been signed over 6,000 people thus far.