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Chaos, jitters as domestic flights resume

New Delhi: Domestic flights resumed in the country on May 25 after a gap of two months but amidst a lot of chaos and confusion.

According to aviation industry sources, around 630 domestic flights of Monday were cancelled due to the Centre's Sunday night announcement that there would be no flights in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, and limited operations at major airports such as Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad, leaving passengers reporting to airports only to be informed that their flights had been cancelled.

Consequently, many took to social media to vent their anger.

Union Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Monday evening, "From no domestic passenger flights yesterday to 532 flights and 39,231 passengers today, action has returned to Indian skies. With Andhra Pradesh set to resume operations from tomorrow & West Bengal from 28 May, these numbers are all set to increase further."

According to a source, on May 22, bookings had opened for around 1,100 domestic flights for Monday.

The first flight took off from Delhi for Pune at 4.45 am under strict regulations recommended by the civil aviation authorities. The first flight from Mumbai was to Patna and it departed at 6.45 am. A large number of flights was cancelled on Monday across the country.

States like Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, which are home to some of the busiest airports in the country, were reluctant to allow domestic flight services from their airports, citing swelling cases of the Coronavirus infection in their states. It was decided on Sunday that Kolkata and Bagdogra airports in cyclone-hit West Bengal will not operate any domestic flight between May 25 and 27 but will handle 20 flights each daily from May 28.

Moreover, Vijayawada and Vizag airports in Andhra Pradesh will handle just 20 per cent of their pre-lockdown flights from May 26. Mumbai airport, which is India's second busiest airport, will handle only 50 flights daily from Monday, the Centre said, adding Chennai airport will see only 25 arrivals per day.

There were no limits set on departures from Chennai airport.

Moreover, Hyderabad in Telangana will handle just 30 flights every day from Monday, the government said.

Airlines were jittery in resuming services as multiple states have put in place separate norms and conditions for quarantining passengers arriving there by domestic flights.

IndiGo president and chief operating officer Wolfgang Prock-Schauer visited the Delhi airport to observe operations on the first day.

In a press release, SpiceJet said its first flight on Monday took off from Ahmedabad at 6.05 am and reached Delhi at 7.10 am.

However, many states have expressed serious reservations about the Centre's decision to start flight services.

Delhi airport was thrown in chaos on Day I of operations as several flights were cancelled. Around 80 flights to and from Delhi were reportedly cancelled due to restrictions from other states.

Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bihar, Punjab, Assam and Andhra Pradesh, among others, have announced their respective quarantine measures for passengers arriving at their airports.

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