The Indian Express
Mumbai airport handles 47 domestic flights after services resume
Several passengers who had come to the airport to catch early flights were stranded after several airlines announced cancellations. The routes of many flights also had to be re-chalked by the airlines.by Abha Goradia
As Mumbai airport resumed restricted flight services on Monday, a total of 47 flights took off from and landed at the T2 terminal at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. The airport handled a total of 4,852 passengers, 3,752 departing and 1,100 arriving passengers from 14 places across the country.
According to airport officials, the highest number of departures was to New Delhi. The first flight that departed from the airport after the lifting of the ban on domestic flights on Monday morning was for Patna at 6.45 am, while the first flight to arrive was from Lucknow at 7.44 am.
Though airlines have been allowed to operate at 80 per cent of an aircraft’s seating capacity, the first flight to land from Lucknow, an IndiGo Airlines flight, had just 33 passengers.
Scheduled to arrive at 8.20 am, the flight landed early, at 7.44 am. However, the passengers began trickling out of T2 — home quarantine stamp and “9/6/20” scribbled on their hands with permanent ink pens — only after 9.30 am.
The passengers waited for over an hour before BMC doctors and other staff arrived to begin the process of screening. While the arrival process began in a slow and restricted format, the departure gates saw much more traffic of weary passengers, who had made it to the airport amid confusion and uncertainties over cancellation of flights and delays.
Until May 31, the airport will operate only 25 flights each for arrival and departure. This caused all airlines to cancel many scheduled flights for which tickets had been issued to passengers. Commenting on the cancellation of flights across airlines, a source from the airport said that as per guidelines issued by the Airport Authority of India last month regarding resumption of services post-lockdown, the airport was ready to operate at 30 per cent of its capacity. This meant scheduling nearly 200 flights every day.
However, only 50 flights to and from Maharashtra were agreed upon by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, after his communication with Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, causing cancellation of nearly 150 flights on Monday, as well as other days.
Several passengers who had come to the airport to catch early flights were stranded after several airlines announced cancellations. The routes of many flights also had to be re-chalked by the airlines.
Qureshi Rehman, an advocate at Bombay High Court, said he wasn’t sure until the last minute whether his wife would come back for Eid-ul-Fitr. But he had taken a chance and booked her on a flight after the Centre’s announcement that flights would resume on May 25. He had first booked a flight on April 15 for his wife, who had gone to Lucknow in February on a business trip, but that ticket had to be cancelled. “Ticket prices have gone up from Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,200. But I’m glad she’s here. I cannot describe how hard the past three months have been for me and my eight-year-old,” he said.
The passengers’ temperature was checked thrice during the journey. The airlines seated one passenger per row and provided them face-shields and masks. “We were already informed that no refreshments would be provided,” said Rushil Khanna, who had gone to Lucknow on a work trip and got stranded. He had booked two tickets, one for May 25 and one for June 1, in case the state government didn’t allow flights until the lockdown period.
“We were asked where we were from, where we will go,” said Pune resident Supriya Jadhav, about procedures on arrival. She was allowed to go to Pune in a private cab. “Some amount of waiting was inevitable,” she said, adding that the journey otherwise was smooth.
Javed Ahmed, an employee with an automobile company, said he faced a few difficulties in complying with the protocols. “I’ve flown many times but the new protocol mandated passengers to carry out most processes themselves. It was a little confusing,” said the Asangaon resident.
All the passengers who departed or arrived had only two options to commute to and from the airport — personal cars driven by family or friends, or private cabs operated by travel agencies that charged inflated rates. Many also complained about issues with web check-in, usage of credit cards for payment for excess baggage, and inability to reach customer care.
Departure was more chaotic. On May 24 night, SpiceJet announced the cancellation of its Mumbai-Varanasi flight. “My husband and I immediately booked tickets on an IndiGo flight. In a few minutes, we again received a message from SpiceJet that its flight would be departing. We now had two tickets thanks to mismanagement of the authorities,” said Kalpana Gupta, professor at Benaras Hindu University.
Ticket prices fluctuated as travellers scrambled for bookings. Usually, a trip to Allahabad for two would cost Rahul Kesarwan around Rs 10,000. This time, he had to shell out nearly Rs 17,000.
For departures, the airport has limited luggage to one check-in and one cabin baggage. Verification of boarding pass and ID proof was done by CISF at the entry gate. Displaying the status of Aarogya Setu app at the entry gate is required, without which passengers have to fill a self-declaration form. Throughout the day, several flights were cancelled but the airport portal failed to reflect the exact status of flights to passengers.