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Two days after Centre approves flights, states come in with riders


New Delhi/Mumbai: Two days after the Centre announced resumption of domestic flights in the country, prospects of air travel were thrown in massive confusion with some state governments specifying their own quarantine rules for arriving passengers while others hinting at a longer ban on domestic flights.

The government had ordered a suspension of all flights from March 25 as part of a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus. It has now allowed domestic flights to partially resume from May 25.

Now, the Maharashtra govt has put its foot down saying domestic flight increases the chances of the virus spreading.

It has told the Mumbai airport officials that “it should initiate minimum possible domestic flights from Maharashtra from May 25th” which include only international transfer passengers from cities, medical emergencies, students, and cases on compassionate grounds, said a state government official.

States like Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab and Chhatisgarh have said that passengers entering to the states even on domestic flights will be quarantined, media reports said. West Bengal too may ask for a longer suspension of flights.

While Punjab and Karnataka have said that all passengers will be quarantined, Kerala has reportedly said that passengers arriving in the state on business will be allowed to go out but with a lot of caution.

This move has created a lot of confusion among fliers as well as airlines, who fear that even the flights may not be allowed to land. Airline and airport executives said that as of now they are sticking to flight schedules approved by the central government. Airlines continue to take bookings on all destimations. Only GoAir has said it will start flights from June 1.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation, on Thursday, had formally announced the relaunch of flight operations across the country and hoped that states will not bring in rules for institutional quarantine for passengers arriving in domestic.

“If I have to go to Kerala for a day and I have to quarantine for 14 days in Kerala and another 14 days upon my return to Delhi, I mean…. We have to put in safeguards to ensure that no Corona infected passenger does not travel,” aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said.

“We are in constant touch with airports, state government officials and the centre and apprising passengers as best as we can on the new rules such as quarantine specifications for some states,” Sunil Bhaskaran, CEO of AirAsia told ET. He added no airport has forbidden any flight operations yet but much clarity is yet to emerge.

Other airline executives said that this is too much to handle. “There is no clarity on rules and the worst part is that airlines are not aware about any of these. We also get to know through media reports only,” said a senior airline executive.

He added that the airlines fear that they would operate flights as long as states allow them to.

“Looking at the confusion, the states may decide to ban flight operations completely. In that case, we may not be able to operate flights. As of now, we are operating flights to these states to,” the executive added.

Meanwhile, officials in the central government do not have much to say on the issue.

Senior executives and spokespersons at IndiGo, Vistara and the Mumbai airport said that as of now, they are sticking to approved schedules from the central government.

“As of now, the airport is ready to receive commercial flights and slots have been allocated. We are yet to receive a final go ahead from the management” said a spokesperson at the Mumbai airport.

IndiGo is trying to apprise passengers of specific home quarantine requirements from states such as Karnataka, Assam and Andhra Pradesh as and when the airline gets authentic information. Vistara hasn’t made any changes to its schedule yet but is awaiting more clarity.

“The problem is that because of this confusion, all the ire of passengers will be needlessly targeted at airlines,” said an airline executive, not wanting to be named

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