Confusion, jitters as Indian domestic flights resume

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Domestic flights resumed in India yesterday even as coronavirus cases surge, while confusion about quarantine rules prompted jitters among passengers and the cancellation of dozens of planes.

India had halted all flights within the country, and departing and leaving for abroad, in late March as it sought to stop the spread of coronavirus with the world’s largest lockdown.

But desperate to get Asia’s third-largest economy moving again, the government announced last week that around 1,050 daily flights – a third of the usual capacity – would resume yesterday.

Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said strict rules would include mandatory mask-wearing and thermal screenings, although middle seats on the aircraft would not be kept empty.

The announcement reportedly caught airlines and state authorities off-guard, with several local governments announcing that passengers would have to go into quarantine for two weeks on arrival.

Maharashtra, the Indian state with the highest number of coronavirus cases, capped at 50 the number of departures and arrivals in and out of its capital Mumbai.

Airlines scrapped dozens of flights yesterday while hundreds of passengers cancelled their bookings, reports said.

The NDTV news channel said 82 flights to and from New Delhi had been cancelled and nine at Bangalore airport.

Airport staff checks the body temperature of a passenger at the Bangalore International Airport as domestic flights resumed after the government eased a lockdown imposed as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 in Bangalore. PHOTO: AFP