With its first day of domestic flight resumptions almost under its belt, India has had its fair share of challenges today. Unprepared airports, flight cancellations, and a plethora of quarantine protocols has left many travelers confused. Here’s how India’s first day back flying has been going.
Flights resume at Delhi
The honor of the first pushback from Delhi was taken by IndiGo. Its 6E-643 flight from Delhi to Pune set off at 04:45 this morning, ending the grounding of flights that has lasted for two months to the day. The first arrival at Delhi went to SpiceJet, as SG 8194 landed from Ahmedabad at 07:10 local.
— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) May 25, 2020
Initial reports suggest managing passengers at Delhi is going relatively well. Airline agents are located around the largely deserted airport to direct passengers to their gate, and stores looking to cash in on COVID have sprung up selling PPE. Floor markers help people to stay socially distanced, and temperature checks and zoned boarding is in place at the gates.
Airlines are doing zonal boarding.
Only queue up when your seat number is announced.
— Arindam Majumder (@ari_maj) May 25, 2020
Onboard, planes are lightly packed, so social distancing is possible, at least for now. Cabin crew are equipped with full PPE, including hazmat suits and face shields, and are offering to seat passengers on their own on request. Not everything has gone entirely smoothly, however, as passengers report some confusion over declaration forms and protocols of the states into which they are flying.
‘Chaos’ at Mumbai
At India’s second busiest airport, things have not been going so well. Even as recently as last night, passengers were still confused as to whether flights would indeed resume today, and it seems the airport has been wholly unprepared for reopening.
A lack of social distancing markers has people gathering outside in close proximity and checks of forms at the door means it’s taking a long time to get inside the airport building. Only 50 flights will operate today, with permission granted very last minute for fewer services than expected. Unexpected cancellations have left passengers confused and upset, and with little in the way of public transport operational, some are left stranded at the airport.
— NDTV (@ndtv) May 25, 2020
To add to the confusion, it seems passengers from some states are being subjected to quarantine requirements on arrival in Mumbai. Those arriving from Lucknow are being asked to quarantine at home for 14 days, those from Bengaluru for seven days, but with each state having different rules, the chaos continues.
— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) May 25, 2020
Aside from confusion at some airports, Indian travelers have been struggling with last-minute cancellations of their flights. More than 80 flights have been reported to be canceled at Delhi, and a further 20 at Mumbai. Smaller airports have also indicated their fair share of cancellations, with passengers saying they were not informed until they already arrived that the flights would not be operating.
Air India, in particular, has received criticism on social media for lack of communication with its passengers. The airline maintains that it cannot disclose cancellations until two hours before the flight operates. But with the new SOPs dictating passengers should arrive at least two hours before their flight, this means many have turned up at the airport only to then find out no flight will take place.
Absolutely horrible from @airindiain. They told me the flight has been cancelled after I reached the airport saying that we can only notify 2 hours before the take off. How does this make sense when government is asking us to reach the airport 2 hours in advance?
— Neelabh Pandey (@NeelabhPandey19) May 25, 2020
For many, the sight of the skies above the sub-continent once again alive with aircraft will come as a positive. But with the country experiencing its highest spike in new confirmed cases over the weekend, some will be asking whether it’s all a bit too soon.
Indians soar in the skies again!
A beautiful live capture from #flightradar24 shows how our skies look busy again as domestic civil aviation recommences in India from today.@MoCA_GoI @AAI_Official @DGCAIndia @flyspicejet @airindiain @IndiGo6E @airvistara @goairlinesindia pic.twitter.com/LytA1H8xcH
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) May 25, 2020
Have you been flying in India today? Let us know about your experience in the comments.