Much to the relief of the friends and relatives of Indian nurses stranded in the civil war-ravaged Iraq, the beleaguered nurses are expected to be brought to Kochi by a special Air India aircraft on Saturday morning.

An Air India flight, AI 161, will leave from Delhi for Erbil in Kurdistan, where all the 46 Indian nurses are being kept, at 6 p.m. on Friday. The flight is expected to reach Erbil at Iraqi time 8.20 p.m.

Two hours later the flight, AI 160, will set off for Cochin International Airport Limited at Nedumbassery, where it is expected to arrive at 6.40 a.m. on Saturday, Air India sources told The Hindu. It takes about five hours to reach Kochi from Erbil.

Air India will be deploying a select crew so that the passengers who are likely to be under severe stress would be taken care onboard the aircraft. “Going beyond hospitality, our crew will extend emotional support by talking to them,” an airline official said.

CIAL has made all arrangements to coordinate the smooth disembarkation and clearance of nurses at any hour.

Steps have been taken to ensure the prompt landing and parking of the unscheduled aircraft on a priority basis. Since the passengers are unlikely to have travel documents, we have coordinated with the customs and emigration wings to ensure their hassle-free clearance.

Norka will arrange for taxis to take nurses to their homes, airport spokesperson said.

In fact, CIAL had organised a meeting of various agencies concerned a couple of days back ever since it emerged as a possible disembarkation point.

Air India will deploy a special team for ground handling besides their customer service staff to receive and assist the passengers.

Air India has a history of having successfully airlifted more than a lakh stranded Indians during the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The airline had rescued 1.11 lakh Indians by operating 488 refugee sorties in a period of 59 days from Iraq, Kuwait, and Jordan.

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