“We cannot allow daily movement of flights from these cities as of now,” the CM said at a media briefing while charting out the September lockdown dates when no flights will be allowed to operate to and from the city.
The decision to intermittently lift the embargo will bring much-needed relief to people from Kolkata stranded in these cities as well as abroad. While those with urgent travel requirements have been flying to Kolkata via other cities, it entailed more cost and greater risk of infection. Kolkatans stranded abroad will also be able to now take Vande Bharat flights to Delhi and Mumbai and then fly to Kolkata direct.
Anticipating the lifting of embargo following a communique from Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla to state chief secretaries on the need to lift all restrictions in inter- and intra-state travel, all airlines had opened flight bookings from the six cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Nagpur and Ahmedabad — to Kolkata.
“The lifting of the complete ban is a welcome move. For international travellers though, it is still a bother if the days on which flights are allowed to operate don’t coincide with onward connection from Delhi or Mumbai. It also takes a toll on the load of passengers in a flight,” said Travel Agents Federation of India chairman (east) Anil Punjabi.
Airline officials also reacted cautiously. “We are not sure who will determine the three days. We had already started selling tickets for all September days. Now we will have to make relevant changes,” said an airline official in Kolkata.
“Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka has way more number of infections than Delhi and Gujarat. If flights are allowed to operate from Bangalore and Hyderabad, then why stop flights from Delhi and Ahmedabad?” said Sushil Poddar, a resident of Lake Town.
In the last few weeks, Delhi had been witnessing a sharp decline in Covid numbers staying under 1,500, even dipping to a low of 613 on July 27 only to record 1,544 fresh cases on Tuesday. While Maharashtra recorded 10,425 cases on Tuesday, Mumbai contributed only 587 infections, the fewest in 105 days. With 1,270 cases, Chennai still has a high number of cases as do Bangalore and Hyderabad from where there are no flight restrictions to Kolkata.
When the embargo had come into place on July 6, all airlines had also suspended outbound flights to these six cities citing operational difficulty. It is only recently that IndiGo has commenced one-way special flights to Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. “As of now, we will continue with these scheduled flights. Depending on the updated instruction, we will make the necessary changes,” said an IndiGo official.