SOME 283 foreign workers from Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) were able to return home to India recently, thanks to a partnership between their employer and Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB).
The specially chartered Malaysia Airlines aircraft A330-200, flight MH8780, took off on March 12 for the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Calcutta.
This is the first charter flight to India in 2021 and marks the second time both companies have joined forces to ensure the safe return of SDP’s foreign workers to their home countries.
Malaysia Airlines was instrumental in providing ground arrangements and facilitating the process with the Indian Embassy in Malaysia as well as relevant authorities.
Meanwhile, the cost of the entire exercise was borne by SDP.The Covid-19 pandemic, global travel restrictions and border closures had complicated the movement of foreign workers whose employment tenure with SDP had ended.
Despite the challenges, since July 2020, SDP, with the help of several agencies including Malaysia Airlines, the Immigration Department, various embassies and KL International Airport (KLIA) authorities, have assisted a total of 1,739 foreign workers to return home.
Furthermore, SDP is also preparing the journey back for an additional 670 workers within the next three months to Indonesia, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
In the meantime, foreign workers whose permits have expired will continue to live on SDP’s estates with free housing and subsidised utilities.
“Malaysia Airlines is committed to playing its role in making sure families are reunited in these challenging and uncertain times, ” said Captain Izham Ismail, group chief executive officer of Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), the parent company for MAB.
“Over this past year, we continue to serve the nation and our network by maintaining domestic and international connectivity, mostly to facilitate essential movements.
“We also assist government and corporate agencies to reach countries that are not on the commercial flight network through our charter service.
“We are glad to help provide a rescue flight for SDP’s workers for the second consecutive year, which we believe reflects their confidence in our services.
“The operation to Calcutta also marks another new city Malaysia Airlines is flying to during this pandemic where few commercial flights are available.”
Malaysia Airlines and SDP had taken all necessary precautions and adhered to guidelines set by the Health Ministry and World Health Organisation at all times.
All the foreign workers underwent the compulsory Covid-19 tests and the authorities were notified of the results within 24 hours before departure.
Malaysia Airlines had also ensured that the passengers and staff onboard the flight were equipped with personal protective equipment and that standard hygiene practices were observed, including washing hands and utilising hand sanitisers periodically throughout the journey.
SDP group managing director Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha said, “We are fortunate to work with a like-minded partner such as Malaysia Airlines, who shares the same commitment to ensure the success of this mission.
“Our foreign workers are an invaluable part of our workforce and they deserve our very best effort to reunite them with their families safely.
“We aim to help all our people who are waiting to go back home during these times.”
As a token of appreciation, SDP also arranged for 16 of these workers, who have been with the company for over 10 years, to travel in business class.
SDP had also provided RM300 as domestic travel allowance to 88 of the workers for their onward journey to various regions upon arrival in Calcutta.