Pratyush Vyas, a Gujarati captain with Air India Express, has flown many flights, but none like the one from Dubai to Mangalore bringing stranded Indians home on May 12.
In this special repatriation flight under the Vande Bharat evacuation mission of India, there were 177 passengers on board. But the actual number of 'lives' was much more as some flyers were expectant mothers.
"We had to keep in mind a lot many new factors. One, we were flying for the first time with hazmat suits that are not very comfortable to be in. Secondly, after calming nerves of passengers anxious over coronavirus situation, we had to take care that all the carrying mothers land home healthy," Vyas said in a social media interview to a radio jockey.
For the crew, food, water, or loo breaks were impossible for eight hours once they put on the personal protective gear.
Sharing his unique experience, Vyas told RJ Dhvanit: "We were sweating inside the PPE, though the cabin temperature was at the coldest. Especially for the expectant mothers, we took the extra care of monitoring speed, cruising through turbulence, and descend from around 35,000 feet.
"Many get ear pain in case the descend is not smooth. Besides, there were chances of pregnant women getting affected by shock if the landing was not smooth."
The captain and the crew members had volunteered to be part of the Vande Bharat mission.
Vyas compared the PPE restriction experience to religious fastings. "The eight hours without food, water, and toilet breaks were like observing Roza (fasting during Muslims holy month of Ramadan) or attham (Jain fasting)," Vyas said.