India's March 15 lockdown has recently been extended to May 3, leaving Kiwis with no commercial flight options to return home.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters said the decision to charter flights at huge expense was not taken lightly but the New Zealand Government was seriously committed to assisting New Zealanders to return home where all other options had been exhausted.
The first flight leaves New Delhi today, touching down in NZ tomorrow. The second flight will depart Mumbai on Monday 27 and arrive Tuesday 28. The third flight is yet to be finalised but is expected to depart New Delhi on Thursday 30.
New Delhi and Mumbai have been chosen as the departure points as that's where Kiwis in India are located closest to.
"This has been an extraordinarily complex operation. Nearly 1300 registered an interest in the flight, spread out across the country," said Peters.
MFAT is currently providing assistance to New Zealanders stranded too far away from New Delhi or Mumbai.
"We are conscious that there are significant numbers of New Zealanders currently in southern and eastern India. We are looking into flight options for them."
The Air New Zealand flights will fly directly from India to New Zealand without stops. The decision to use Air New Zealand for flights was made by the Government in consideration of the strict health and safety standards, ensuring that the public health of New Zealand is maintained.