Domestic flights to resume from tomorrow, but confusion persists
Even as domestic passenger flights are set to resume in India from Monday, some states have questioned the move citing issues with rules and their reluctance to accept flights. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal are among the states that expressed concerns over the resumption of flights. The Centre had announced plans to resume civil aviation operations earlier this week.
In Maharashtra, the worst-hit Indian state in the coronavirus outbreak, the state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Sunday said that it is "extremely ill-advised to reopen airports in the red zone." Deshmukh tweeted, "Mere thermal scanning of passengers inadequate w/o swabs. Impossible to have autos/cabs/buses ply in current circumstances. Adding positive passenger will add COVID stress to the red zone."
Its extremely ill-advised to reopen airports in red zone. Mere thermal scanning of passengers inadequate w/o swabs. Impossible to have autos/cabs/buses ply in current circumstances. Adding positive passenger will add Covid stress to red zone.#MaharashtraGovtCares— ANIL DESHMUKH (@AnilDeshmukhNCP) May 23, 2020
Notably, Maharashtra has not amended its lockdown order to permit domestic flights yet. When asked about the resumption of flights, an official told PTI, "We have not yet amended this lockdown order issued on May 19." The order prohibits domestic/international air travel till May 31.
Tamil Nadu has also urged the Centre to not resume domestic passenger flights before May 31. The state has recorded the second-highest number of coronavirus infections after Maharashtra. "They are talking about 60 flights a day, which means 12,000 passengers a day," state Chief Secretary K Shanmugam told The Times of India on Friday, "We cannot handle the passengers."
The eastern state of West Bengal is reeling under the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan. State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said she will write to the Centre to hold off on resuming flights to Kolkata till May 30. Banerjee said at a press conference on Saturday, "I will write to the Centre to ask them to send flights till May 28 to Bagdogra airport."
Earlier this week, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that passengers will not be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine after traveling to other states via flights. However, several states have opposed the Centre and decided to quarantine incoming travelers. These include Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, and Telangana, along with the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Puri on Saturday admitted that several states have expressed reluctance to resume flights from Monday. Addressing a Facebook Live session, he said some hesitation was expected and the Centre has been trying to meet their concerns. Meanwhile, some airlines have already opened bookings for domestic flights post-May 25. GoAir has decided to open bookings from June 1 instead, in light of the confusion.