KOLKATA: The civil aviation ministry has announced suspension of flights to Kolkata from six cities with a high incidence of Covid-19, including Delhi and Mumbai, with effect from Monday in accordance with a request from the Bengal government. “No flight shall operate to Kolkata from Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Chennai and Ahmedabad from July 6 to 19 or till further orders. Inconvenience caused is regretted,” Kolkata airport’s Twitter handle announced on Saturday.
State chief secretary Rajiva Sinha had written to civil aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola on Tuesday, seeking an embargo on flights from these cities as well as Surat and Indore.
Technically, travellers from Delhi or Mumbai would still be able to fly to Kolkata through another city like Raipur, Bhubaneswar or Vishakhapatnam, although that would make travel even more expensive than it is now.
With six cities struck off the list, the already curtailed flight schedule to and from Kolkata has been pruned further from 65 to 40. Arrival of international repatriation flights has already been suspended following the state government’s request, leading to the cancellation of five flights that were scheduled between July 1 and 15. Two of these flights were from the Gulf, another two from the US and one from the UK.
The civil aviation ministry may have acquiesced to these requests, but officials hope to persuade the state government into dropping the other demand of curtailing flights from other cities by limiting each airline’s operations to once a week. Kharola on Friday urged Sinha to reconsider the request. Airlines, too, are hoping there is no further curtailment.
Airline officials, however, say it will be a logistical nightmare if their operations were to be limited to once a week. Travel agents, too, have pointed out that such a plan won’t be feasible as passengers would then need to book with multiple airlines for to-and-fro travel. Flyers from the Northeast, who usually take flights to the rest of the country via Kolkata, will be hit the hardest.