As domestic flights resumed at several airports across India this morning after two months since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed, Passengers created chaos as they were left uninformed of the cancellations.
82 flights to and from Delhi were cancelled, with angry passengers at Terminal 3 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport claiming that they were not informed till the last minute. Airport officials said the cancellations are on account of several states telling the centre that they will not be able to operate flights agreed upon earlier. The Delhi airport will handle a total of 125 departures and 118 arrivals today.
Similar scenes were witnessed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, with several passengers seen sitting outside the airport after their flights were cancelled.
It was a novel sight for fliers to see crew members in protective gowns, masks and face shields welcoming them inside the planes.
While a flight to Pune was the first to take off from Delhi at 4:45 AM, a Patna-bound flight was the first to take off from Mumbai at 6:45 AM. The Mumbai airport, the country’s second busiest airport, will handle 50 flights daily – 25 incoming and 25 outgoing.
“We were going to Delhi. We were told when we arrived here that the flight has been cancelled. One of the customer care employees told us that there is a flight that runs tonight and that may be, we have been rescheduled. But nothing is confirmed yet,” a woman, sitting on her suitcase said. Her flight was scheduled for 11:05 am. Since passengers can only do web check-ins, her airline could not confirm is she could take the next flight to Delhi, she said.
Long queues were seen outside the departure terminal in Mumbai, with passengers taking longer than usual to enter the airport as security personnel had to do thermal screening as well as check if each passenger had downloaded the Aatogya Setu app on their mobile phone.
Maharashtra, which was among the states that sought time to re-start flights in view of its huge number of coronavirus cases – the highest in the country – said at the last minute that it would operate 25 flight take-offs from Mumbai and 25 landings in the city. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray earlier said the state would need more time to prepare for flight operations.
At Chennai airport too, there were disappointed passengers who said their tickets have been cancelled. “From March 15, we were stuck here in Tamil Nadu due to the lockdown. We booked three tickets for Mumbai last night but while reaching here, our flight tickets were cancelled and there is no one to answer us at the help desk. We don’t know what to do now,” Viswanathan, a passenger, was quoted saying. Northeast India too witnessed a disruption of flights, with flights arriving only in Assam’s Guwahati and Manipur’s Imphal airports. All flight to Agartala, Dibrugarh, Silchar, Aizawl and Dimapur were cancelled because the Kolkata airport is not functional yet, sources in the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said. West Bengal, battered by Cyclone Amphan, had asked for more time to re-open the Kolkata airport.
Nine flights were cancelled at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport. The centre announced last Thursday that one-third of pre-lockdown domestic flights will operate from today. All international scheduled commercial passenger flights remain suspended. Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri has indicated that international flights could begin in June.
The Health Ministry on Sunday issued guidelines for domestic travel, advising passengers to download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile devices and asking states to ensure thermal screening at the departure point of airports, railway stations and bus terminals. Asymptomatic passengers should be permitted to travel after being asked to self-monitor for 14 days, the ministry said.