The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has stirred things up in Indian aviation, putting authorities on high alert. From delaying scheduled international flights to new testing requirements, there have been multiple changes to traveling guidelines in India that all airlines are expected to follow. Recently, three airlines, namely American Airlines, Air India, and Mahan Air, were served show-cause notices by Indian authorities for violations of COVID guidelines.
In light of the new Omicron variant, the Indian government has mandated on-arrival COVID tests for all incoming passengers from “at-risk” countries and 2% testing of passengers from “not at-risk” countries, which includes the US, Canada, and UAE.
On December 3rd, American Airlines was issued a notice by the Indian government, stating that its crew on the New York-Delhi flight failed to randomly identify 2% of passengers for on-arrival testing at the airport.
However, AA maintains that it followed the protocols correctly and issued a clarification statement, saying,
“American Airlines holds the health and well-being of our customers and team members as our highest priority, and we take care to abide by COVID-19 guidelines and all other rules and regulations established by governments in markets where we operate. We received the notice and believe our flight was in compliance with the latest guidelines, and we have responded accordingly.”
Air India and Mahan Air
A day later, two more carriers came under the scanner for violation of passenger boarding guidelines. The New Delhi district administration served show-cause notices to Air India and Iran’s Mahan Air for failing to get personal details of some passengers arriving in the country.
On December 3rd, Mahan Air allowed a passenger to fly into New Delhi despite not filling up a personal detail form. A day later, Air India let two passengers, who had not submitted their personal details, fly on flights from Dubai and Amritsar.
The station managers of both airlines have been asked to respond to the show-cause notices and explain the reason for non-compliance.
Delhi airport overwhelmed
Meanwhile, Delhi airport has been overwhelmed by the new testing requirements for incoming passengers. As reported by NDTV, passengers have had to wait for two hours in queue to get themselves tested.
Passengers willing to take the more expensive Rapid PCR – which yields results in around 90 minutes – can make it out of the airport after about five hours. Those who opt for the cost-effective regular RT-PCR test have to wait for 6 to 8 hours just to get a confirmed result. The report points to the crowding of the airport space by passengers waiting to get tested, with some of them describing the airport itself as the hotspot.
To enhance passenger convenience, 20 dedicated counters are fully operational for those who have made online booking for Rapid & RT PCR test at T3 arrivals.
Pre-book your test and save time. https://t.co/IIcs5mji68
@MoCA_GoI @MoHFW_INDIA @ushapadhee1996 @JM_Scindia pic.twitter.com/FjdsHYrKiq
— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) December 4, 2021
To ease the situation, Delhi airport set up 20 dedicated counters on Saturday for passengers flying in from “at-risk” countries who have pre-booked their COVID tests. Hopefully, this will reduce the waiting time for passengers and the workload of airport personnel who have been overwhelmed by new regulations following the Omicron variant.
Have you traveled to India after the new Omicron-related restrictions? Please share your comments below.