India resumed domestic flights on Monday, May 25, 2020 after two months of halting scheduled passenger flights across the country. The world’s largest democracy ground to a halt when the government placed a nation-wide lockdown on March 24th in order to battle the Coronavirus. This also resulted in all commercial air travel being stopped and airports across India being shut down.
However, India’s Aviation Minister, Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri had announced on social network Twitter that domestic air travel would resume in the country in a calibrated manner, with airlines allowed to operate one-third of their pre-COVID flight schedules. The announcement received mixed reactions, with many stranded citizens in different parts of the country breathing a huge sigh of relief. Many Indian states were however hesitant to allow commercial passenger flights as their COVID-19 tally has been rising at an exponential rate. These states house some of India’s busiest airports like Mumbai (BOM), Chennai (MAA), Bengaluru (BLR) and Kolkata (CCU).
This pushback from some of the state governments meant that a final decision was still not taken till the evening before May 25th, and this was only after rounds of negotiations between the central government and states. The decision was therefore confirmed only a few hours before flights were set to resume. Each state still has placed their own restrictions upon the number of flights, quarantine rules for arriving passengers, etc., which meant many flights saw unexpected cancellations. In total, 630 flights were canceled across the nation on Monday, leaving many passengers stuck outside the airports.
Nevertheless, flights in India began with the first taking-off from Delhi Airport, operated by IndiGo as 6E643 at 0445hrs to Pune. India saw 532 domestic flights take to the sky and transported 39,231 passengers on May 25, 2020.
Yet still, the states of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal did not resume flight operations, due to the destruction caused by Cyclone Amphan, but it was announced that they would start operations on May 26 and May 28, 2020, respectively. It was also announced that major airports like Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad would see only limited operations of around 25 daily landing and take-offs each.
To ensure safe travel for all, airports are following strict social distancing norms and continuous sanitization of terminal buildings. For the safety of the airport employees, it is mandatory for passengers to web-check-in before arriving at the airport, masks are compulsory for all, and employees are provided with PPE suits, just like the crew operating on the flights. Another important rule set by the government is that each passenger must download and activate the Aarogya Setu app, an Indian COVID-19 tracking application, before traveling. Inside the aircraft as well, it is mandatory for the passengers to wear their masks at all times and some airlines like IndiGo and Vistara are also providing their passengers with face shields.
While many are still reluctant to travel, thousands of people were united with their families and went back home after being stuck in lockdown for two months in cities across the country.