Absence of amendment to SOP in force during lockdown cause for concern

The absence of an amendment to the standard operating procedure (SOP), in force during the lockdown, has cast a shadow on the resumption of flights to Mumbai and other cities in Maharashtra.

If not amended soon, tickets to and from airports in Maharashtra — Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Kolhapur — will be redundant. The move will also cast a shadow on the opening up of the domestic aviation sector in India, as the Delhi-Mumbai route is among the busiest domestic sectors in the world, flying over 45,000 flights a year. The route attracts the most traffic followed by sectors such as Mumbai-Bengaluru.

“The State government has not amended its lockdown order dated May 19. No air traffic is allowed yet,” a senior bureaucrat said.

As per the State government only flights for the international transfer of passengers, medical emergencies, students, and cases on compassionate grounds were allowed. “We are ready for resuming flight operations from Terminal 2 in Mumbai maintaining physical distancing and taking steps to sanitise the premises,” the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) official said.

In a tweet, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) operated Pune airport also announced that it would resuming flight operations from May 25.

Among airlines, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Air India, Vistara and AirAsia India opened their systems for bookings from May 25 onwards. Mumbai-based GoAir, however, is yet to open its bookings.

In a statement GoAir said it awaited clarity on the readiness of the respective States and their airports with regard to acceptance of flights, or the conditions applicable to passengers entering the respective States.

With no clarity, people took to social media demanding answers from the government. Many termed it as a Centre-State coordination issue. Minister for Medical Education and Culture Amit Deshmukh speaking to a TV news channel said, “Until the coronavirus cases flatten out, will will have to wait for the flights to land in Mumbai and Pune.” He said cities like Nashik, Nanded and Nagpur could have flight operations. He said, “Cases in Mumbai and Pune need to flatten out. We will have to wait before flights can resume in these two cities.”

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