India restarts domestic air travel after a two-month gap, amid chaos | News | DW | 26.05.2020

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India restarts domestic air travel after a two-month gap, amid chaos

The resumption of domestic flights in India was marked by chaos as several flights were canceled without passengers being warned in advance. Regional rules also complicated the resumption of travel.

India restarted domestic flights on Monday, after suspending air travel for two months. However, the day was marked by chaos and exasperation as several flights were cancelled without prior intimation to passengers. At least 80 flights to and from the Delhi airport were cancelled yesterday, according to airport officials.

Several carriers canceled flights at the last-minute owing to restrictions from several state governments, still grappling with the coronavirus. The state of Maharashtra, which has the most cases, has allowed only 25 takeoffs and 25 landings each day from its capital city of Mumbai.

The first flight departed from Delhi airport at 4.45 a.m. to the city of Pune in Maharashtra. Carriers such as IndiGo, SpiceJet, Vistara and Air India, India's national carrier, operated flights with around a third of their capacity.

Airport official sprays disinfectant on the baggage of a passenger before he enters for check-in at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.

An airport official sprays disinfectant on a traveler's luggage at New Delhi's rather deserted Indira Gahdhi International Airport

Airports and airlines took several precautions, such as checking each passenger's temperature and imposing a strict rule on wearing face masks. Officials also verified if passengers had downloaded the Indian government's health and COVID-19 cases tracking app, called Aarogya Setu.

Read more:  Coronavirus: Indian states abandon labor protection to revive economy

Unclear quarantine rules

Indians traveling back home were faced with unclear quarantine rules, as each state had separate rules in force. 

The southern state of Karnataka said that Indians coming from states with high incidence of COVID-19 cases would have to go to a quarantine facility for seven days. Passengers would have to bear the cost themselves. 

In Maharashtra, asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic people were asked to go into mandatory quarantine, either in a hotel or their home. Rules were in place to hospitalize symptomatic passengers. In Delhi, quarantine wasn't mandatory for asymptomatic passengers.

India has nearly 145,000 cases of COVID-19. The country is among the top 10 nations in the world with most cases of the virus. 

am/msh (dpa, Reuters)