On Monday, as India resumed domestic flight operations after two months, many passengers were taken unawares as several scheduled flights were cancelled, allegedly without prior notice.
“Only when our boarding passes were scanned at the airport entry we were told that boarding has been cancelled. We don’t know what to do now,” a passenger told ANI about their Bengaluru to Hyderabad flight. Several people had the same complaint as flights at airports in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities were cancelled on Monday.
82 flights to and from Delhi were cancelled, NDTV reported, and passengers claimed that they were not informed till the last moment. Airport officials told NDTV that the cancellations happened because several states told the centre that they would not be able to operate the flights agreed upon earlier.
While the central government had earlier insisted that domestic flights would be on hold until 31 May, it sprung a surprise last week by allowing them to operate earlier than expected, reportedly due to pressure from beleaguered airlines.
However, the announcement was also marked by chaos after Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that travellers did not need to go under the 14-day quarantine as it was not “practical”. States with high numbers of Covid-19 patients, however, protested and until Monday, 11 states and the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir have said they will insist on institutional or home quarantine for incoming passengers.
Even then, confusion prevailed until Sunday as states including Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu had opposed the centre’s directive and asked for more time to restart operations. Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh also tweeted on Sunday that “it’s extremely ill-advised to reopen airports in red zone”.
Later, the Maharashtra government allowed 50 flights at Mumbai airport with minister Nawab Malik saying, “Initially the state government will allow 25 takeoffs and 25 landings every day from the capital city. This number will be increased gradually.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had urged the central government on Saturday to defer flight operations at Kolkata airport til 30 May. An official statement from the state government, carried by India Today, said that flights will resume from Kolkata from 28 May because the “government machinery is involved in relief and restoration work in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Amphan”.
Delhi airport saw its first departure at 4.45 am on Monday to Pune while Mumbai airport’s first departure was at 6.45 am to Patna, officials told PTI.
Several people took to social media to complain about cancelled flights and the lack of clarity on refunds.
A few people travelled long distances to airports only to find that their flights had been cancelled.
Naik Satish Kumar’s Kolkata-bound flight got cancelled as the state decided not to resume operations till 28 May, PTI reported.
“I travelled all the way from Ambala (in Haryana) on a bus to take a 6 am flight to Kolkata. When I reached here, I got to know the flight had been cancelled. I am returning home now,” he said.
Nine flights were cancelled at Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, ANI said. “Around 94 arrivals and 94 departures were scheduled. Yesterday certain state governments imposed certain restrictions on the number of flights that can be operated from Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, etc so on that basis, there will be a few more cancellations. I don’t have the exact numbers right now,” Hari Marar, MD and CEO of Bengaluru airport, told ANI.
(With PTI inputs)
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