As airlines across India ground their planes in response to the government instructed lockdown, Delhi Airport has a problem. Usually the busiest airport in India, airlines are used to fighting over landing slots and gate space. But now they’re fighting over something new – places to park their planes.
Delhi is full
Delhi Airport is becoming more congested by the minute, but for once it’s not due to high levels of traffic. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 around the world, airlines in India have been cutting back services in response to the plummeting demand for international travel.
Almost two weeks ago, India stopped issuing visas for arrivals from other nations. Now, with India clamping down on domestic flights too, Indian airlines have really seen the bottom drop out of their market. As a consequence of this, many are looking for places to temporarily store their aircraft, and Delhi Airport is prime real estate.
According to NDTV, Delhi is getting close to being full for plane parking. Remote bays and hangars are being stacked full of planes, and the airport is running out of space. A spokesperson told NDTV,
“We have allowed airlines to park at the remote bay area near runways. Many hangars have also been given to park the aircraft.”
— VT-VLO (@Vinamralongani) March 24, 2020
Delhi reportedly has space to park around 200 aircraft. But with just under 700 aircraft in the national fleet, across its 11 airlines, that space has been quickly swallowed up thanks to the early reduction in capacity. Now, with India grounding domestic flights too, airlines will have to find an alternative location for parking their planes.
Confusion over the new rules
The announcement by the Indian government of the halt on domestic flying came as something of a surprise to both airlines and their travelers. The Times of India reports that many felt they were getting mixed messages, and took it upon themselves to make their way to the airport anyway. With no public transport in operation, this added another challenge to these confused passengers’ journeys.
The problem at Delhi Airport was that the local government announced on Sunday that no more domestic flights would be allowed to take off or land until the 31st March. Later, the Directorate General Of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said that domestic flights would be allowed on Monday. This was a confusing message for fliers and led to chaos at the airport.
This is via a friend who is stuck at Delhi airport. They were supposed to go to Srinagar from Indore via a connecting flight from Delhi…@PMOIndia @narendramodi @ArvindKejriwal @AamAadmiParty @KhanAmanatullah @HasibaAmin @Zebaism @ndtv @ravishndtv @BDUTT pic.twitter.com/Si3nSK7wOF
— Shan (@aawaz_do) March 24, 2020
A spokesperson for the airport told the Times of India,
“flyers got confused. People calling our helplines were directed to the airline concerned. We have also posted on social media and are responding to queries.”
Question: How do you distance yourself at an airport?
Answer: By not going to the airport.
The situations are such that I have to go back home risking myself and so many people, feels terrible.#lockdown #Delhiairport #coronavirusindia #StayAtHomeSaveLives #StayHomeIndia pic.twitter.com/YlbudlmhMd
— Subit Bose (@BoseSubit) March 23, 2020
India’s biggest airline IndiGo has been working hard to keep in touch with its passengers through social media and text message. However, many people are still resorting to calling the airline, which has led to long call waiting times on its customer service lines.
— IndiGo (@IndiGo6E) March 22, 2020
— Vistara (@airvistara) March 23, 2020
Other airlines too are trying hard to keep passengers informed, but with a great deal of confusion and worry in the country right now, it looks like the congestion both inside and outside Delhi Airport is set to continue.
Have you been caught up in the chaos at Delhi? Let us know in the comments.