UK-India flights resume; chaos at Delhi airport after last minute modifications in quarantine rules
Passenger flights resumed from the UK to India in limited numbers from Friday onwards after remaining suspended for 16 days due to the emergence of a new coronavirus variant in that country
Chaotic scenes were witnessed at the Delhi airport on Friday as many passengers arriving from the UK vociferously complained against the national capital government's belated decision to make seven-day institutional quarantine compulsory for them irrespective of their COVID-19 test results.
Passenger flights resumed from the UK to India in limited numbers from Friday onwards after remaining suspended for 16 days due to the emergence of a new coronavirus variant in that country.
Air India's AI112 flight from London landed at the Delhi airport at around 10.30 AM.
It was the only UK flight to land in Delhi on Friday and it had 256 passengers in it, said Gauri Agarwal, founder of the Genestrings Diagnostic Centre, which is handling coronavirus testing of all passengers at the Delhi airport.
Only two passengers were found positive for COVID-19 when tested on arrival, she said later in the day.
Vistara's former Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer Sanjiv Kapoor said on Twitter, "This is ridiculous. You cannot tell people the rules have changed after they land. Some notice must be given! Chaos at Delhi Airport with this flight, families with small children, pregnant woman howling.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Friday afternoon that travellers coming from the UK to the national capital will have to undergo a seven-day institutional quarantine and a seven-day home quarantine even if they test negative for COVID-19 on arrival.
Air India, however, claimed on Twitter on Friday evening that it had informed the flight's passengers about the new advisory of the Delhi government before the plane took off from the Heathrow airport last night.
"Around 20 passengers opted to cancel their flight on being informed by Air India's London team of this advisory. The announcement was repeated during the flight as well," the carrier added.
A passenger of the flight, named Harpreet Takkar, tagged Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Twitter and said, "Just came from London AI112, it's absolutely maniac at Delhi Airport. Asking us to go for institutional quarantine even with a Negative PCR test. Didn't mention this on your SOP (standard operating procedure)."
Another passenger, Mohit Wadhwa, tagged Kejriwal on Twitter and said, "I am one of the passenger of flight AI112 from London with my 2 months old son. You locked everyone of us."
Sources said there were heated arguments between the passengers and security personnel who were present at the airport.
Air India said it had mobilised all available resources to expedite RT-PCR tests for passengers of the flight and extended "every possible support to facilitate them".
One Vistara flight with 291 passengers will come from London to Delhi on Saturday and two flights -- one of British Airways and another of Air India -- with a total of 481 passengers will land at the Delhi airport on Sunday, Gauri Agarwal stated.
Aviation Minister Puri had announced earlier this month that only 30 flights per week will operate between India and the UK between January 8 and January 23. Indian and UK carriers will each be operating 15 flights per week during the period.
Earlier this month, the Union Health Ministry stated that a passenger coming from the UK can board a flight to India only when he has a negative test report from a sample taken 72 hours prior to the journey.
Moreover, as per the rules, the passenger also has to take the RT-PCR test on arrival at the entry airport in India.
India had suspended all passenger flights between the UK and India from December 23 to January 7 as a new variant of coronavirus emerged in the UK.
Over 60 passenger flights per week were flying between India and the UK in December before the suspension.
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