Scores of passengers have been flooding social media pages of Kolkata airport and Airports Authority of India (AAI), asking what are the quarantine norms in the state and whether an RT-PCR Covid negative certificate is mandatory to board the flight.
“Can you please help let me know whether we need to have a Covid negative report to board the flight from London to Kolkata? Also it’s very difficult to get a slot for the test. Please can you help? I will be travelling on Wednesday and my flight time is 12pm from LHR to CCU, that means I will have to get tested after 12pm on Saturday. It’s very tough to get tested on the weekend,” wrote Abhishek Gupta, tagging Kolkata airport, Air India (AI) and AAI in the post.
Another London resident, Kingshuk Sengupta, wrote in multiple posts that his parents were booked to travel from Kolkata to London via the direct flight but that he was finding it difficult to get the Covid test done.
There were also other fliers like Soumitra Saha and Joy Chakraborty, who wanted to know about the quarantine protocols at the airport. “Can you please confirm the number of institutional quarantines for arrival from London through direct AI flight?” Chakraborty wrote on Saturday.
State officials have already unambiguously informed AI that only passengers, who have tested Covid negative, can board the flight. All of them require to submit their test report online at least 24 hours prior to the flight departure. Only then will the flight get the final nod for takeoff.
Kolkata airport officials said they have been receiving multiple queries from passengers on their social media handle that pointed to confusion among fliers less than 72 hours before the flight. “We are trying to answer all their queries and inform them about the proper state guidelines to ensure they aren’t harassed. But the queries continue to pour in,” said a senior official at the airport.
Vande Bharat flights have been operating since April-end to repatriate Indians stranded across the world to various cities in India and the SOP for travel has been revised periodically by the Union health ministry. The Bengal government had stopped issuing no-objection certificates to all VB flights from July1and gave it’s in-principle approval to the London-Kolkata flights with a rider that all passengers undergo RT-PCR tests for Covid at least 96 hours before the flight departure and submit the report online. On arrival at Kolkata, each passenger will have to go for home quarantine for 14 days.
The twice-a-week Air India flight from London to Kolkata from this Wednesday is set to be the first since British Airways withdrew from the sector in March 2009. AI had stopped the London-Kolkata flights in September 2008.
Air India officials said they have been adequately conveying to passengers the need for mandatory RT-PCR tests.
“We are also making all efforts from our end to make the flights a success. We are also in discussion with a large crew of Tollywood production houses who are planning to shoot in the UK sometime later this month. We are trying to promote this flight among them,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east) Travel Agents Federation of India.
On Sunday, 102 flights took off from Kolkata. There were no flights on Friday and only three flights had operated on Saturday. “The flurry of passengers was back on Sunday. Air India even operated a Jumbo — Boeing B747 (only the Airbus A380 is larger) — that can accommodate nearly 400 passengers to meet the rush,” airport director Kaushik Bhattacharjee said.