Domestic flights to resume soon in India: All you need to know about air travel in May
As part of the second of phase of Vande Bharat Mission, Air India is set to schedule several domestic passenger flights from May 19.
After special flights for expatriates, the government wants to start special domestic flights for Indians who are stranded somewhere and can afford flight tickets.
Air India is set to operate special domestic flights from different cities between May 19 and June 2, reported The Times of India. However, the bookings have not opened yet.
Though these would be mainly for people coming back to India as a part of the Vande Bharat mission, some domestic passengers may be able to book tickets as part of the second phase of the "mission".
According to the report, the majority of the flights will be from Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kochi. Chennai too, will have a flight to Kochi.
The flights from Delhi will be to Jaipur, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Amritsar, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Vijayawada, Gaya, Lucknow and a few other cities. Mumbai will have flights to Visakapatnam, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Vijayawada. There will also be round trips between Hyderabad and Mumbai, and Hyderabad to Delhi. Bengaluru is set to have have flights to Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad and an incoming flight from Bhubaneswar.
However, it may be worth noting that there is no flights to and from eastern part of the country in this initial plan by Air India.
A senior Air India official told the publication that they are waiting for a nod from the ministry of civil aviation. The schedule has been prepared as part of phase-2 of evacuation flights to bring Indians from abroad. "The government had said that domestic flights too could be included in the second schedule," he said.
The officer further said that the schedule for some of these flights has been designed to ensure that passengers arriving from abroad on rescue flights can fly to their home states.
Interestingly the government of West Bengal has accused the Centre of not scheduling flights for expatriates who want to return to Bengal.
Is the MEA asking us to believe that there are enough people to come from Georgia to Gujrat but none want to come to Kolkata ?— Partha Chatterjee (@itspcofficial) May 14, 2020
Also, there are enough people to come back to Bihar from Kyrgyzstan but not enough to bring back to Bengal??
Stop this injustice !!!#MithyebadiBJP pic.twitter.com/NbpEFWw646
However, an official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) replied to that tweet saying that the MEA does not discriminate between states and the Vande Bharat Mission is for all stranded Indians, including those from West Bengal. Over 3700 of them have registered for repatriation from different parts of the world.
MEA does not discriminate between states. GOI’s Vande Bharat Mission is for all stranded Indians, including those from West Bengal. Over 3700 of them have registered for repatriation from different parts of the world. (1/2)@MoCA_GoI @HomeSecretaryWB https://t.co/CEzU0rCAnM— Anurag Srivastava (@MEAIndia) May 14, 2020
However, he said that they will only be able to facilitate flights to Kolkata if the state government will confirm arrangements to receive and quarantine. "We hope to receive an early response on the matter," said the spokesperson, putting the ball in the state government's court.
The Way Forward
Meanwhile, the Centre is panning to resume commercial domestic flights in a staggered manner over the next one month. According to a report, government agencies have began laying the groundwork in terms of safety and policy measures required to start flight operations.
On Wednesday, The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security issued a circular doing away with stamping of boarding passes by security personnel at the airports, in order to "contain the spread of coronavirus by touch/contact."
The government has also floated a set of draft standard operating procedures with various stakeholders including airlines, airports and ground handling companies seeking their opinion on measure to maintain physical distancing et cetera. There proposed measures include downloading of Aarogya Setu app, increasing of passenger reporting time at airports, mandatory web check-in, among other procedures.
With the possibility of resumption of domestic flights soon, #AAI has released some steps that must be followed so passengers are fully geared up while travelling. Wear a mask, carry a hand sanitizer, keep docs handy & register on #AarogyaSetuApp. #AAICares pic.twitter.com/N6ooZIoOsc— Airports Authority of India (@AAI_Official) May 15, 2020
Earlier, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had indicated that domestic flights could only operational from a airports situated in Green Zones. But according to the latest updates, the government might be planning to start flights in all zones, as a lot airports currently fall under Red or Orange Zones.
The carriers other than Air India, are also in talks to resume operation in a staggered manner as a part of the lockdown 4.0. Since the size of the operation had been scaled down to unprecedented levels after the imposition of nationwide lockdown, the private carriers might require some time to prepare for commercial passenger operations.