Passengers wait at Delhi airport's terminal T-3, as domestic flight services resumed on Monday, after two months of lockdown. PTI   -  PTI

Chaos reigns at airports as domestic flights take off after 2-month gap


Chaos prevailed at some airports around the country as domestic flying resumed on Monday after a gap of two months. It is estimated that just a little over 400 of the over 1,000 flights that were originally cleared to operate took off on Monday.

Delhi-based low-cost airline IndiGo operated close to half of the over 400 flights a day for which it had received clearance from the authorities. IndiGo was followed by SpiceJet (about 81 flights) AirAsia (38 flights), AllianceAir (28 flights) and Air India and Vistara (20 each). Delhi airport was forced to cancel over 80 inbound and outbound flights on Monday.

Handling over 1,300 flights a day before the Covid crisis, Delhi is the nation’s busiest airport. On Monday, it had 118 aircraft arriving and 125 departing.

Flight schedule tweaks

Many airports experienced chaotic scenes as the authorities had to tweak the flight schedules of domestic airlines which were approved after Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri announced that domestic flights would start from May 25.

Airlines had approached the authorities to file their revised schedules in view of the new norms stipulating that only one-third of the original number of flights would be allowed when operations restarted.

Some States, including Maharashtra and West Bengal, said they were not in a position to receive flights immediately. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray took to Twitter on Sunday afternoon to announce that he had spoken to Puri in this regard. He said that until MIAL (Mumbai International Airport Ltd) had fine-tuned airport operation plans, they should opt for minimal domestic flights from the State from May 25. These could include ‘emergency’ flights such as those for international transfer passengers, medical emergencies, students and cases on compassionate grounds.

Eventually, the State decided to let 25 flights land and take off from Mumbai from Monday.

Delhi-Mumbai route

Delhi-Mumbai is one of the busiest air routes in the world. Sources indicated that airlines had filed for over 100 daily flights between the two metros, which were curtailed to 25. This meant that those who had booked on most of these flights could not travel.

The situation is likely to improve in the coming days once West Bengal starts accepting flights, from May 28, which will open up prospects for connecting more cities in the North-East. Many of the flights to the North East pass through Bengal.

Sources also indicated that Maharashtra could accept more flights after June 1. This should ease the situation as many domestic airlines not only connect Delhi and Mumbai but also extend their flights to other cities from the two metros.