Chaos And Cancellations – India’s Domestic Flights Off To A Bumpy Start

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.

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Flights have begun to take off in India again today. Photo: Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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Crowds of people wait in lines to get into Mumbai’s terminal building. Photo: Getty Images

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.

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.

Flight cancellations

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.

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.

Have you been flying in India today? Let us know about your experience in the comments.