India air travel restart hits chaos and cancellations

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Airlines’ plans to resume air travel in India were in disarray on Monday after some states restricted the number of flights hours before departure, causing last-minute cancellations and leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.

Passengers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) enter Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, after the government allowed domestic flight services to resume, during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Mumbai, India, on Monday. (Reuters photo)

NEW DELHI: Airlines’ plans to resume air travel in India were in disarray on Monday after some states restricted the number of flights hours before departure, causing last-minute cancellations and leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.

Airlines, including IndiGo, India’s biggest carrier, SpiceJet and Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Group and Singapore Airlines, had been preparing to resume operations from Monday with about a third of their capacity amid strict rules.

But new restrictions at major airports, including Mumbai and Chennai, forced airlines to scramble late on Sunday to revise schedules.

The confusion will make it even harder for airlines to recover from the impact of a two-month lockdown to contain the novel coronavirus that has already cost tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue, industry executives, lawyers and analysts said.

“The entire handling of the restart has been reduced to a farce, causing pain for airlines, airports, and passengers,” said an industry executive on condition of anonymity.