Business & Economy

Flight cancellations greet passengers as India resumes domestic air traffic

New Delhi, May 25 (efe-epa).- Numerous flights were canceled at India’s major airports much to the inconvenience of passengers on Monday, the first day that domestic air traffic has been resumed following a nationwide two month lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“Due to restrictions implemented by various local authorities, flights have got canceled today,” Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport, the country’s biggest, said on Twitter.

A total of 118 flights are scheduled to arrive at the capital’s airport while 125 flights are expected to depart after 80 flights were canceled, a spokesperson of the GMR Group, which operates the Delhi airport, told EFE.

The spokesperson said that the airport had scheduled flights that the airlines had informed them about after the announcement on May 19 that domestic traffic will begin operations.

“However, some states later implemented some restrictions and that’s why some flights have been canceled,” he added.

This situation resulted in many angry passengers, who arrived at the airports without being informed that their flight had been canceled.

“We were going to Delhi. We were told when we arrived here that the flight has been canceled. 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 at the airport in Mumbai, India’s financial hub, told local news channel NDTV.

Several of the flights that were canceled at the New Delhi airport, according to GMR, were those scheduled to arrive from or depart for Mumbai as the city’s airport – the country’s second largest – only allowed 25 flights to land and as many to take off.

This limit was imposed by the authorities of the state of Maharashtra – the worst affected by the coronavirus epidemic and whose head of government, Uddhav Thackeray, justified the decision on Sunday saying they needed “more time to prepare” for the resumption of flights and that the mass movement of travelers could spread the virus.

Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who had announced last week that domestic flights would be resumed from Monday, ended negotiations with various states late Sunday.

“It has been a long day of hard negotiations with various state govts to recommence civil aviation operations in the country,” the minister tweeted late Sunday.

Puri added that there will be “limited” flights from Mumbai and a maximum of 25 arrivals in Chennai with no limit on the number of departures from that southeast Indian city.

Air operations will also resume in the states of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal from Tuesday and Thursday respectively, albeit on a limited scale.

West Bengal’s largest airport, located in the state’s capital, Kolkata, was flooded last week after the passage of Cyclone Amphan, which left 106 people dead in India – 80 in West Bengal – and Bangladesh.

Although both crew members and passengers are required to wear protective gear, no seats are to be left vacant in the flights as upholding social distancing requirements would push up fares by about 30 percent, Puri had said.

India suspended all commercial passenger air flights at the end of March, when a lockdown was declared in the country to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Although the number of infections and deaths continue to rise – 134,823 infections and 4,021 deaths had been reported in the country until Monday – the government began to ease some restrictions since early May although it has extended the lockdown four times, the last until May 31. EFE-EPA


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