Flights back in the air, but carry very few passengers
Patronage on day one despite COVID-19 threat and restrictions augur well for air services, it is feltby S Sundar
After two months of lockdown, scheduled domestic flight operations began from Madurai on Monday. The last scheduled flight from Madurai airport was operated on March 24.
Out of six flights scheduled to fly into Madurai, one was cancelled. “An early morning flight from Chennai to Madurai was cancelled for today and tomorrow due to lack of patronage,” said Airport Director S. Senthil Valavan.
Passengers who were waiting to take the return flight to Chennai were accommodated in a subsequent morning flight. The remaining flights - two from Chennai, one each from Bengaluru and Delhi arrived in Madurai.
The Delhi flight flew further down south to Thiruvananthapuram and returned to Delhi with a touchdown in Madurai.
While 117 passengers arrived in Madurai, 177 passengers flew out of the city.
Prior to the lockdown Madurai airport had 28 scheduled services, including four international flights.
Though Tamil Nadu government had made it mandatory for passengers to register with TN e-pass, many arrived without one. A team of revenue officials who were present at the airport with a special counter issued e-passes to those passengers who were bound for districts other than Madurai.
“We have briefed the airlines operating to Tamil Nadu about the standard operating procedures, which include the e-pass. The special counter is only a stop-gap arrangement,” Mr. Senthil Valavan said.
Thermal scanning was done on all incoming and outgoing passengers by health officials. Wearing of mask was mandatory.
Swab test on all passengers coming to Madurai district from other States was done and they would be kept in a quarantine facility till their results are out. “Only those who test negative will be allowed to go home,” Collector T.G. Vinay said.
“All asymptomatic passengers from within the State are allowed to go home with an advice for 14 days of home quarantine. But those with symptoms for COVID-19 will have to undergo swab test and remain in institutional quanrantine till the test results are out. They will be allowed to go out only if they test negative,” said Deputy Director of Health (Madurai) P. Priyaraj.
Passengers coming from other States and bound for other districts were issued TN e-pass and were cross notified to the authorities of other districts so that they can take up further course of action as per their standard operating procedure (SOP).
Some of the passengers from other States refused to stay in the special quarantine facility, complaining that they were unaware of this procedure. However, the officials convinced them that the same SOP was being done for passengers arriving here by trains and buses from other States.
“The number of passengers travelling between Madurai and Chennai on day one despite the COVID-19 threat and restrictions by way of SOP are good signs for air services,” said a travel agent, N. Sriram.
Though the passengers were asked to come four hours ahead of the scheduled departure to enable thermal scanning and social distancing norms, the limited number of flight services and less patronage meant there was not much of a problem. Special glass cubicles were provided for CISF personnel and airline staff for checking tickets and issuing boarding pass.
Inspector General of Police (South Zone) K.P. Shanmuga Rajeswaran, Deputy Inspector General of Police Z. Annie Vijaya and Superintendent of Police N. Manivannan inspected the security arrangements at the airport.