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India resumes domestic passenger flight services
New Delhi, May 25, 2020
After many anxious moments, India resumed civil passenger flight services on Monday, exactly two months after it had suspended these operations due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Accordingly, IndiGo operated its Delhi-Pune service early on Monday. The Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here will receive a SpiceJet flight from Ahmedabad later.
Similarly, two flights operated at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA). While one departed from Mumbai for Patna, the first arrival was from Lucknow, both operated by IndiGo.
The first service to Patna flew out at around 6.45 a.m., while the incoming flight landed around 8.20 a.m., said airport officials.
Several other incoming and outgoing flights are scheduled during the day as the Maharashtra government late on Sunday permitted restricted operations in view of the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the state in a big way.
The CSMIA authorities and the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, state government and other agencies have deployed full COVID-19 protocols to handle the incoming and outgoing flight passengers.
Flights are also expected to resume at Pune, Nagpur -- both international airports -- besides smaller airports in Maharashtra like Nashik, Shirdi and Kolhapur.
The re-commencement of services comes a day after a massive spike in ticket cancellations, along with a drop in bookings, was reported by the aviation industry for Monday's flights as several states had moved to limit air operations.
Consequently, in order to calm nervous passengers, the Centre said that, barring just two states, the rest of the country is open to accept domestic flights.
On Sunday evening, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted that states across the country will resume domestic flight services on Monday except Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
Airports in Andhra Pradesh will resume services on Tuesday and West Bengal will restart on Thursday.
"It has been a long day of hard negotiations with various state govts to recommence civil aviation operations in the country. Except Andhra Pradesh which will start on 26/5 & West Bengal on 28/5, domestic flights will recommence across the country from tomorrow," Puri tweeted.
Sources said that starting May 28, Kolkata and Bagdogra airports will each handle 10 arrivals and 10 departures per day.
Further, according to people in the know, both Vijayawada and Vizag airports in Andhra Pradesh will operate 20 per cent of arrivals and departures as planned under the Summer Schedule. Hyderabad will resume services on Monday with 15 arrivals and 15 departures, sources said.
In another tweet, the minister said that starting Monday, there will be limited flights from Mumbai and as per approved one-third schedule from other airports in the state.
For Tamil Nadu, he said that there will be maximum 25 daily arrivals in Chennai, but there would be no limit on number of departures.
"As per request of state govt, operations in Andhra Pradesh will recommence on limited scale from 26 May. For Tamil Nadu there will be max 25 arrivals in Chennai but there's no limit on number of departures. For other airports in TN flights will operate as in other parts of country," Puri said.
Consequently, passengers, who had booked for flights on these and other inter-metro route segment for May 25, rushed to cancel their tickets.
Industry insiders had pointed out that majority of bookings received were for flights between metro cities, due to the "pent-up demand", but now with limited operations and quarantine norms, a large number of queries have been received from passengers travelling to these cities.
Even airline executives were left in the lurch on Sunday evening as state after state came out with new norms for accepting flights, thereby, distorting their network planning.
Another daunting confusion was over the quarantine norm which many states said they will enforce on air travellers.
This led to a cascade of calls at the customer care centres of online travel agents.
Nevertheless, many passengers still wanted to travel, if they were provided with a choice for 'Home Quarantine'.
Earlier, air passengers gave an overwhelming response to the re-commencement of passenger flight services from May 25, as healthy demand was witnessed for tickets on all metro routes.
The Centre had only allowed limited passenger flight operations of about one-third capacity of the summer schedule to operate between metro cities and other destinations from May 25, adding that this capacity might be ramped up in the coming period.
Passenger air services were suspended for international flights from March 22 and for domestic flights from March 25, the day when the nationawide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 came into force.