India saw resumption of domestic flights on a substantial basis on Monday after a gap of two months even as various state governments expressed reluctance to open up their airports in view of rising cases of coronavirus.
Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri hailed the resumption of flights on Twitter and said with Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal resuming flights soon, the numbers will rise.
From no domestic passenger flights yesterday to 532 flights &
39,231 passengers today, action has returned to Indian skies.
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) May 25, 2020
News agency PTI quoted an aviation industry source as saying that around 630 flights were cancelled due to states' restrictions.
The first flight on Monday was from Delhi to Pune at 4.45 am and civil aviation authorities ensured strict regulations were followed by airlines and passengers equally. The first flight from Mumbai was to Patna which took off at 6.45 am. However, a large number of flights were cancelled amid confusion as states differed in the set regulations meant for airline passengers.
Sources said around 82 flights including departures and arrivals were cancelled at the Delhi airport, sparking confusion and hassles for passengers.
States like Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, having some of the most busiest airports in the country were reluctant to allow flight services from, citing increasing cases of the coronavirus infection.
The West Bengal government cited the dual crisis of coronavirus and the aftermath of the Cyclone Amphan and said the state would allow flights to resume on a gradual basis from both the Kolkata and Bagdogra airport from May 28. Andhra Pradesh too did not allow any flights on Monday.
Airlines too were jittery in resuming services as different states have put in place separate norms and conditions for quarantining passengers arriving there by domestic flights. Some states have decided to put passengers in mandatory institutional quarantine while several others have talked about putting them under home quarantine.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had questioned the need for quarantine if a passenger shows green status on the Aarogya Setu app. The green status signifies that a passenger is safe.
As many as 20 flights were operated to and from the Mumbai airport till 12:45 pm on Monday after Indian airlines resumed commercial passenger services after two months of COVID-19 lockdown. The airport received around 1,900 passenger, Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) said in a statement.
The airports in Mumbai in Maharashtra and Hyderabad in Telangana will handle 50 and 30 flights respectively everyday from Monday, aviation officials said.
Bengaluru's Kempegowda International Airport saw the first flight leaving for Ranchi with about 176 passengers, as cancellations marred the day. According to sources, the first flight out was an Air Asia aircraft to Ranchi that departed at around 5:15 am, while the first arrival was a flight from Chennai at about 8 am with around 113 passengers. According to reports, 74 flights were cancelled suddenly or without prior notice.
The airport operator has geared up to handle 215 air traffic movements a day, including 108 departures and 107 arrivals.
"Of the revised schedule, 43 flights took off, 31 arrived and 74 were cancelled till 5 p.m. for operational reasons," an airport official said.
Operations resumed at the Surat airport too, with four flights on Monday, said its director Aman Saini. "Two flights arrived here from Delhi and Hyderabad and departed for the same destinations. Three flights were
cancelled by a private operator on Monday," she said.
During the day, 40 flights were scheduled to arrive and an equal number slated to depart from the Ahmedabad airport, said a senior official. However, the exact number of flights handled by the Ahmedabad airport was not available till the evening.
Domestic flight operations started from the Chandigarh International Airport too. The airport has formulated Standard Operating Procedures for safety of passengers and airport staff which include social distancing and stringent thermal screening. The security personnel of CISF have been provided with transparent plexiglass sheets to avoid any physical contact with passengers.
A Delhi-bound Indigo Airlines with 116 passengers was the first flight to be operated from the Chennai airport. It left for the national capital at 6.40 am while a flight from Delhi operated by the same carrier was the first incoming one, albeit with a far lesser number of passengers, at 27.While a total of 34 flights were originally scheduled to depart, as many as 15 of them were cancelled, including some of those headed for Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi.
Goa's Dabolim airport saw only three services touch down, while ten others were cancelled, state Health Secretary Nila Mohanan said. Mohanan, however, said reasons of the 10 cancellations among the 13 scheduled arrivals were not known.
"The first flight landed from Bengaluru while the other two were from Delhi," she said.
Lucknow's Chaudhary Charan Singh Airport also handled nine domestic flights with over 800 passengers.
The Pune international airport in Maharashtra handled arrival and departure of seven flights by Monday afternoon, a senior aviation official said.
Domestic air travel resumed at the Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun, with five out of six scheduled flights leaving for their destinations amid strict adherence to social distancing norms by passengers. Six flights were scheduled for Monday, Jolly Grant Airport Director DK Gautam said.
Except Guwahati and Imphal airports, no passenger flight landed at any other airport in the north-eastern states on Monday. 7 flights arrived, so far and 7 departed. The last flight lands at 7:45pm carrying 139 passengers from Delhi. Of the 7 flights - 3 from Delhi, one each from Bengaluru and Chennai, and two from Imphal, officials said.
The resumption of domestic passenger flight services after a gap of two months is a favourable move in reviving the aviation sector, SOTC Travel said on Monday. "As the Indian skies opens up today for domestic passenger services, the calibrated opening up of domestic routes is a favourable move in reviving the aviation industry," SOTC Travel MD Vishal Suri said.
SOTC Travel Ltd is a step-down subsidiary of Fairfax Financial Holdings Group and is held through its Indian listed subsidiary Thomas Cook (India) Ltd (TCIL).