As flights resume, more passengers leave than arrive in Mumbai
24 flights depart from city, while 23 land; seven airlines carry 4,852 passengers to and fro; highest passenger load to Delhiby Aditya Anand
Sixty-three days since the last domestic flight took off from the city, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) on Monday saw 47 flights arriving and leaving to 14 sectors, with more departing passengers than those arriving.
IndiGo, SpiceJet, Vistara, Air India, Air Asia India, Alliance Air and Air India Express together carried 4,852 passengers, which included 3,752 passengers at departures and 1,100 at arrivals. The highest passenger load capacity from Mumbai was seen on the Delhi route.
While six flights left for Delhi, two each left for Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi, Patna and Varanasi, followed by one each to Nagpur, Jaipur and Bhuj. Officials at Bhuj airport said the Alliance Air flight from Mumbai brought six passengers and flew back with seven.
Due to operational reasons, airlines flew 47 flights, comprising 24 departures and 23 arrivals. This was three short of the allowed quota of 25 arrivals and departures each as mandated by the Maharashtra government.
Passengers, especially those who had been stranded here since commercial flight operations were suspended on March 22, started arriving at the airport from Sunday night, being dropped off by family and friends.
The first departure from Mumbai was an IndiGo flight to Patna at 6.45 a.m. The first arrival was also an IndiGo flight, from Lucknow at 8.20 a.m.
Airport officials said arrival of a large number of passengers who had not checked revised flight schedules with airlines was not something they had anticipated. CSMIA encouraged passengers to check the status of their flights prior to arriving at the airport. Several passengers were seen trying to get their flights reconfirmed.
Devendra Nath Tripathi, an advocate, tweeted that there was no physical distancing being maintained at the airport. “Flights have been cancelled and there are thousands of people stranded with no information of flight departure time,” he pointed out.
Mr. Tripathi was scheduled to fly by AI 809 to Delhi at 11 a.m., which was cancelled. The airline later put him on a rescheduled flight at 9.35 p.m.
Stamp on arrival
“All arriving passengers will be stamped on their left hand for identification and will have to compulsorily undergo home isolation for 14 days as per the protocol of the Brihanamumbai Municipal Corporation. Passengers who are coming in for a short duration and have planned a return or onward journey, will have to share the details and will be exempted from the isolation,” a Mumbai International Airport Limited spokesperson said.
Though the State government Standard Operating Procedure mentioned 14-day home quarantine, passengers’ hand stamps mentioned validity till June 2, making it seven days. This was also mentioned by CSMIA in its statement.
Officials said only a small percentage of those who arrived at the airport expected an autorickshaw, taxi or cab aggregator service like Ola or Uber. Most had their own vehicles. Pre-paid taxis were made available by members of the union as per requirement.
The airport has created temporary isolation centres in case any passenger shows COVID-19 symptoms during the screening process.
The airport is being sanitised and fumigated constantly. CSMIA said it was putting special emphasis on the need for passengers to wear masks, and allowing passengers to carry 350 ml hand santiser on board. Additionally, it has stationed hand sanitisers at all touchpoints at the airport and is encouraging passengers to web check-in from home.
Airlines and MIAL will be working out daily flight schedules from the city till operations settle down, airport officials said.
In a late night Tweet, MIAL said 44 flights will operate from Mumbai on Tuesday. The approved quota of 50 flights will be met on Wednesday as schedules stabilise.