Maha allows 50 flights to operate to and from Mumbai

Published on May 25, 2020 12:29 AM IST
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By, Mumbai

The state government on Sunday allowed the operation of 50 flights to and from Mumbai from May 25, ending the uncertainty over the resumption of domestic flights in Maharashtra.

Mumbai is one of the six cities selected by the civil aviation ministry for starting domestic flights.

“We have decided to start flight operations from Mumbai. Initially, 25 flights each for landing and take-off will be allowed to operate from the city. Operations will be increased gradually,’’ said state minority affairs minister Nawab Malik.

The Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), which operates the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), confirmed the same.

“Starting May 25, 2020, CSMIA will resume 25 commercial passenger flight movements on departure and 25 on arrival,” said the MIAL spokesperson.

However, a senior civic official from the city said they are yet to receive a standard operating procedure to follow from the state government, while there is no clarity on how passengers will commute.

The decision came hours after chief minister Uddhav Thackeray publicly expressed reservations on resuming commercial domestic operations in Maharashtra, considering the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases. He said that he was not keen allowing interstate movement as there would be rise in cases in the state.

Before that, Thackeray also spoke to Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri, requesting him to allow only minimal flights in the state. The state government has also informed MIAL that they will provide all possible assistance for smooth start of operations, but in a phased manner.

“Today, I spoke to the aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri. I told him let us get an estimate of things. We don’t want this lockdown to go on for five years. We also want to start flights, but we need to find out certain things, such as how will passengers come? What precautions will you take, how many employees would be needed at the airport, if it is supposed to begin etc.,” Thackeray said in a live address on Sunday. He also added that the state is working on a plan to allow interstate movement.

However, even though 50 flights will resume from Monday, there is no clarity on how passengers estimated at around 27,000 daily (as per estimates by MIAL) will commute from the airport to their destinations. Public transport, including taxis, buses, app-based cabs are not permitted in the city. Inter-district commute is also not allowed. As such, the commute of airport and airline staff also poses challenges.

It was not clear from which part of cities they will commute and whether it falls in containment zones, which have total movement restrictions, said a senior government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Earlier, on Sunday morning, state home minister Anil Deshmukh also openly criticised the decision of starting domestic flights in red zones. He said that opening of airports in red zone is extremely ill-advised as it will be add stress on these zones. Mere thermal screening of passengers is not adequate.

With maximum Covid-19 cases across the country, Mumbai is currently in the red zone.

P Velrasu, additional municipal commissioner, said, “We are yet to receive a standard operating procedure to follow from the state government. Basic preparation will be screening of passengers and a stamp for home quarantining them. Passengers will have to manage their own commute and in exceptional cases, the airport operator will be making arrangements. Everybody will be allowed to go home with a stamp.”

For passengers who will be arriving for a short visit in the city, the BMC officials will not stamp them, while considering the number of days they are on a visit. BMC officials said that the only concern is about passengers who might have their houses in containment zones, for which an SOP from the state government is awaited.

The commencement of operations from Mumbai is subject to the following conditions mandated by the state government: Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are strictly adhered to; all arriving passengers shall be hand stamped at the airport for 14 days home isolation and for self-monitoring their health; all passengers are required to make their own travel arrangements to and from airport; airlines shall verify that the addresses of passengers are not from the containment zones; passenger manifest containing detailed contact addresses and mobile numbers of all arriving passengers shall be submitted by airlines,at least six hours prior to the flight’s arrival time, to MIAL for submission to the BMC Commissioner, said a senior official, requesting anonymity.


    Faisal is with the political team and covers state administration and state politics. He also covers NCP.

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