BENGALURU: The first domestic departure from Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), an Air Asia flight, left for Ranchi in Jharkhand at 5.33 am on Monday, 18 minutes behind schedule. Onboard were 176 passengers, including three infants. Most of those who left by the first flight were IT professionals who plan to work from home in their hometowns.
The first incoming flight from Chennai, an Indigo flight (6E 6987) carrying over 150 passengers, arrived at 8.05 am, about 30 minutes late. Chaos prevailed throughout the day due to cancellation of flights. By noon, 22 departing flights and 20 incoming flights stood cancelled.
The huge display boards at both the arrival and departure zones were dominated by red, indicating cancelled flights. The revised number of flights to be operated on Monday was changed to 60 departures and 54 arrivals by 10 am from the initially planned 95 arrivals and an equal number of departures. By the end of the day, airport operator Bangalore International Airport Limited said, “The airport registered 74 air traffic movements — 43 departures and 31 arrivals. In all, 74 flights were cancelled.”
The operator did not give out any further details. With Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeting late on Sunday that states across the country will resume domestic flight services on Monday, except Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, cancellations seemed imminent on Monday. In a second tweet, he had added that there will be limited flights from Mumbai. Neither the airlines nor BIAL had any clue till 10 pm about which flights would operate and which would not.
Flights to Vijayawada, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mangaluru and Agartala were among those cancelled. Incoming flights on similar routes as well as Kochi were also cancelled. BIAL CEO Hari Marar said, “Neither the airport nor the airlines can be blamed for it. Respective state governments took the decision late and hence the cancellations. These are initial teething problems and most of our operations were smooth.” Air India staff at the airport came in for much criticism and abuse from passengers who gathered outside its cubicle for not alerting flyers about the cancelled 8 am flight to Hyderabad (AI 0-516).
Meanwhile, passengers from the first Chennai flight and a few other flights that followed resisted attempts to send them to seven days of institutional quarantine which is followed by seven days of home quarantine. They refused to step out of the terminal, but relented at the end of the day. All passengers arriving from Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai were sent to hotels for quarantine. Some touching scenes were witnessed when parents of students came to the airport to see their children who had come from different states before they were taken in BMTC buses. One mother had tears in her eyes and snacks in her hand.
The BMTC arranged 65 buses to ferry passengers for quarantining. “Each passenger has to pay Rs 300 as a flat ticket rate,” informed a BMTC official. But due to poor occupancy in most flights, more than half of the buses remained empty. The safety measures in place at KIA was greatly appreciated by passengers. Flyers followed the stickers pasted on the floor to ensure social distancing, while the handing over of masks, sanitisers and face shields, the constant spraying of disinfectants and the contact-less baggage check-in and entry into the terminal came in for much praise.
At the Hubballi airport, a Star Air flight arrived from Bengaluru carrying four passengers, before proceeding to Delhi on its second leg, carrying 30 passengers. A return Star Air flight arrived at Hubballi and took off for Bengaluru at night.
The Kalaburagi airport saw a Star Air flight arrive from Bengaluru at 9.30 am, carrying 25 passengers. The aircraft took off on its return journey to Bengaluru, carrying 20 passengers, at 10.30 am.
Meanwhile, Mangaluru International Airport saw SpiceJet and IndiGo operate one flight each to Bengaluru as scheduled, on Monday evening. However, four of the six scheduled domestic flights from Mangaluru were cancelled during the day.
At Sambra airport in Belagavi, a Star Air flight from Bengaluru arrived at 8.25 am, carrying just eight passengers. The aircraft left for Ahmedabad carrying just nine passengers at 9.05 am, before returning to Belagavi at 12.15 pm, with 20 passengers. A SpiceJet plane took off from Belagavi at 5.25 pm for Hyderabad while an Alliance Air flight to Pune and a Trujet flight to Mysuru and Hyderabad
were cancelled.At the Mysuru airport, a total of eight passengers flew on the Alliance Air flight between Bengaluru and Mysuru while the Belagavi flight was cancelled.